So, I’m visiting with some of my high school guys… we’re going out to get pizza. There were four of us all together, 14 and 15 year-olds. It was nice… I hadn’t been able to get this particular group together for a while. “So, how’re you guys doing?” I ask. “Anything happening with you?” We talk about school and their families, sports and girls, and then it starts…
First kid: “Man it’s gangsta at my high school… at the football game last night, everyone was strapped!” [had a gun]
Me: How do you know they all had guns?
“Chris, I live over north… you can tell.”
Me: My gosh, what did you do?
“What can you do? Nobody was starting anything so I just watched the game.”
Me: So, if everyone had guns, I hope that doesn’t include you guys!
“Chris, you know us… you know we’re not about that life.”
Me: What did you do after the game?
“I called my mom to come get my little brother. He wanted to stay and hang out but it wasn’t a good place for him to be.”
Me: And what did you do?
“Oh, I went with some guys to my friend’s house.”
I’m thinking this over and how I should respond when…
Second kid: “Did you hear about the shooting over by my house?” [It’d been all over the news, a twelve-year-old boy was shot and killed] “I know the whole story… these two girls were fighting and then their little brothers got involved. Then the one boy started beating up the other boy, so his older brother left and came back with a gun and shot him six times! Can you believe that? That was wrong! If it was my little brother, I would’ve pulled the guy off or hit him a couple of times but why’d he shoot him? And then he ran…”
I’m digesting all of this tragic information when we drive by a barbershop near their houses with the windows shot out…
Third kid: “Hey, that’s where I get my hair cut. Did you hear what happened? Somebody came with a switch (gun illegally modified to automatic fire) and shot up the barbershop! Nobody got killed though, just a couple of people got shot.” Another kid: “Oh yes they did, somebody did get killed in there! I went to the memorial yesterday.”
Conversations like this occur regularly in my van… sometimes the Lord gives me a word of counsel, sometimes I console and comfort, sometimes I teach… always sharing Christ. Sometimes I have to just listen to what their lives are like and absorb the reality of their daily existence. All of this is hard for me to digest. How must it be for children and teens who are living inside of this violence day in and day out? They share these stories with me in the most nonchalant manner, just another day on the north side… but I have a front row seat to witness the loss of childhood and innocence. To borrow a phrase from my son, their numbness does not imply resilience.
To that end we provide opportunities to play sports, do activities, go camping…. anything to have a calm and peaceful time in a safe place, and build relationships with people who are safe.
Next month we will begin our summer of ministry. We offer two camping experiences, sports teams, and lots of fun trips and activities. The cost to us comes to $400 a child. Can you help support our efforts to engage and occupy our youth in positive and uplifting pursuits this summer? To give them an experience and lasting memory of joy and fun and peace? Any contribution helps.