The Record, Stockton, Calif., Michael Fitzgerald column
Record - 5/27/2018
May 26--If you ever want to lose all faith in humanity, read those Stockton crime Facebook pages. Usually they are a dismal digest of petty crime and seething victims.
But not always.
Currently on a site called Stockton Crime, News and Information is a story about Dustin Weeks. Dustin, 20, is autistic. He lives with his family by Oak Park.
Dustin attends a Stockton Unified program for special young adults at Central United Methodist Church. He used to walk to it daily, four miles, unaccompanied.
This was an accomplishment; in the village of Troy, Alabama, from which he recently moved, there had not been programs to teach Dustin skills and independence. Unfortunately. Dustin, like most 20-year-olds, is eager to be his own man.
Seeing one of his classmates rode a bicycle to class, Dustin asked (he doesn't talk much, but communicates by text) if he could have a bicycle, too.
"I said sure," said Angela Weeks. "You just have to do some more chores so you can get enough money to buy the bike."
So Dustin took out garbage and did housecleaning and other chores until his "tip jar," as he calls it, held enough for a low-cost bicycle at Walmart. A bright blue bike with bright blue sidewalls.
Coming home with the bike, "He was just very happy about his accomplishment," Angela said. "It was another sign of independence for him. It was step forward."
Some autistic people flap their hands in movement called "stimming" when excited or agitated. Dustin stimmed so much that a friendly neighbor said, "You have made that boy very happy."
Angela walked the school route with Dustin, showing him how to stop at crosswalks, look for traffic and other points of bike safety.
Then, a bit apprehensively, this being a big step, she let him ride off alone. So careful was Dustin that he stopped and walked his bike across every cross street.
"He loves it because he can do it by himself," Angela said. "He doesn't need me or anybody else. It makes him feel like an adult."
This went on until one day last week. Dustin emerged from class to find that where his bicycle had been chained up there was just his chain, shattered, and a hatchet that evidently had shattered it.
"Oh, he was sad. Very sad," said his teacher, Annette Marshall.
Dustin texted home. "He's like 'Mom, someone stole my bike!' " Angela said. "He came home from school, he went to bed. Just very, very sad."
From the bedroom, a text: "Mom, what am I going to do? I don't have a bike."
Angela posted the theft on the Facebook page. "My son is autistic and saved up his money from doing chores and was very proud of what he did. He's a good kid and is very upset and sad about his blue bike."
There followed the sort of venomous "POS" snarling and this-city-is-full-of-meth-heads hand-wringing that usually makes staying far away from these pages essential to emotional health.
But then ...
Mark Jones: Please let us buy your son a replacement bike. I want to show him there is good in this world.
Janice Sain: Ok everyone with Angela's permission I ordered the bike ... Anyone wanting to donate $10.00 -- $15 each can meet me (at Walmart) or PayPal me. I WILL NOT AXCEPT ANYMORE THAN THE COST OF BIKE WHICH IS $107.91
Tami Marsh: I can donate too.
Ricki Sanchez: ... the best I can do is buy him one of the best locks and chain money can buy if that's ok??
Janice Sain: Kevin (Shawver) donated for a very good lock ...
And so on. Explained Janice Sain, "Something about that man who used chore money and purchased his own bike touched my heart. I thought something had to be done."
Sain's husband assembled the bike; they took it over to the Weeks' home and surprised Dustin with it, along with a U-lock of such a heavy gauge that even a Thor couldn't ax it apart.
"My bike! My bike!" Dustin said.
"He was ecstatic," Angela said. "He was bouncing around."
"Stockton gets a bad rap from everybody," said Sain. "But there's a lot of good people in this town."
For once the dour visitors to the Stockton Crime, News and Information Facebook page enjoyed an act of kindness.
Evelyn Townsend: What great humans you all are to make someone's life brighter and happier! I love #HappyEndings.
Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at (209) 546-8270 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at recordnet.com/fitzgeraldblog and on Twitter @Stocktonopolis.
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