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It’s a no-brainer: Good teens do bad things

Friends DevMeadows comfort each other as they gather outside his visitatiFriedrich-Jones funeral home Naperville Friday October 26 2012. The 15-year-old

Friends of Devin Meadows comfort each other as they gather outside his visitation at Friedrich-Jones funeral home in Naperville on Friday, October 26, 2012. The 15-year-old Metea Valley sophomore was killed earlier this week after the driver of the car he was riding in lost control and crashed into an Aurora home. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:10AM

Devin Meadows was described by one classmate at Wednesday evening’s vigil as “an angel of God” for his kindness toward others and his ability to light up a room with his always present smile.

But judging by those same friends who paid tribute to Devin on social network sites and at last week’s prayer service, the Metea Valley sophomore also had a bit of the devil in him. It was his quest for adventure and zest for life, his friends said between tears and smiles, that made Devin so special.

Tragically, it also contributed to his death.

Police say the popular and gifted athlete at Metea was joyriding early Tuesday morning with three of his 15-year-old classmates when the Chevy Malibu they had borrowed from the driver’s parents without permission left the roadway on Stonebridge Boulevard in Aurora. It hit an embankment and flipped into the air before landing back on its wheels and crashing into a home in Country Club Village subdivision near Eola Road and Indian Trail.

Meadows, in the back seat and thrown from the car, was the only one not wearing a seat belt.

Of course, the criticisms began piling up as soon as the story went online. What were these kids doing out on a school night? How did they get the car? Where were the parents in all this?

There’s no question Devin was a kid who made friends as easily as he smiled or handled a football. He was motivated, fun-loving, charismatic, compassionate. And yes, according to many of those tributes, a tad reckless — but then, what teenage boy doesn’t have a bit of the daredevil in him?

No alcohol was involved, police say, but obviously extremely poor judgment was executed that night, and laws were broken. Aurora police say it likely will be Monday or Tuesday before charges are filed in the crash.

The hard truth is: Devin Meadows would be alive today, looking forward to basketball and track, had he been in his bed at 1:43 a.m. that school morning — as no doubt were 99.9 percent of his peers.

But to all those people shaking your head and tsk-tsking, I ask that before throwing a stone or two, you fire up the old way-back machine. The behaviors we cluck our tongues over today are not all that different from the antics we joke about now as we look back on our own youthful days — or even the childhoods of our kids.

My six — the brood includes four boys — are now well into adulthood, most with spouses and mortgages. Only in the past few years have tales of their more rambunctious adventures begun to trickle out — stories that would have led to instant grounding or Father’s confessional had I known about them back then.

Now I just laugh, shake my head — and share a story or two from the Mesozoic days of my own youth. Then I make the sign of the cross while silently thanking the Lord I’m only now getting these details, instead of from some somber police chaplain standing at my door at 2 a.m.

My own sainted parents were, likewise, part of this cycle of thanks and prayer, too. That’s because biology doesn’t change over the generations. In case you need reminding, scientific data now tells us frontal lobes of brains aren’t fully connected until a few years after adolescence. That’s the part of the noggin that says, “Hey, dude, is this really a good idea?”

Obviously, there were lots of inefficient communication between parts of the brain on the morning of the crash. As they struggle for solace in the wake of this tragedy that killed their friend and classmate, hundreds of Metea Valley students vow they’ll never forget Devin Meadows. I have no doubt they will indeed long remember his kindness, friendliness and that megawatt smile.

I also hope they remember their fallen classmate the next time an inner voice asks, Is this really a good idea?

They may have one less crazy story to tell around the family table when they are older. But at least they will be around.

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