All these years later I still get the flinch, the visible look of startle in people's eyes when they hear my name.
Nine years later.
Yes, former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky—Jerry with a J—is still in prison. And I am still Gerry Sandusky—Gerry with a G—and unrelated to the former Penn State coach.
I still remember the day the story first broke thinking, $%!) this is going to be a nightmare marathon.
Even to this day I get several recommendations a week on social media that I should change my name. I just chuckle and wonder how those people handle the challenges in their lives.
The Reasons for Keeping the Name
I was adamant then and remain so now that changing my name was not an option. I had a few good reasons at the time:
- My parents are gone and this is the name they left in my stewardship
- What am I teaching my children if I run and hide from challenges?
The passage of time has certainly reinforced my thinking. There is something I call "The Penn State Principle." It's the principle that school forgot in the original handling of the case:
The easy decision in the short term is rarely the right decision in the long term.
Time has a way of teaching us that lesson over and over.
My father didn’t take the easy way out by avoiding fighting in World War II as an 18-year-old. He landed on the shores of France.
He risked his life. And he did it with the name Sandusky on his dog tags. He wore that same name on his football uniform as a member of the Cleveland Browns, the only expansion team in NFL history to win a championship.
That same name was on the hospital bracelet he wore on his wrist on the day he died holding my hand.
I believe I will see my father and my mother again. What exactly do I say if I change my name? Sorry, things got a little tough what with social media and all. I folded. Hope you don’t mind.
Not a chance.
There is a higher good we are all called to serve at different times in life. When the storm hits, when the unpredictable challenge presents itself you have the opportunity to be one of two things:
- A lighthouse that shows others the way in a storm
- An outhouse, the kind of person who is full of you know what and falls apart in the storm
It’s really that simple.
Whether you lead a family, a business, a community or any other group of people, here is the most important lesson I can share with you from my experience. Do you want to be a lighthouse or an outhouse?
No matter what life throws at us, we can always choose our response.