A little girl died last week, one of three children injured by recent shootings in our community. The other two lie in the hospital in critical condition. Vigils are held daily in prayer and protest of the violence plaguing our streets, but the violence continues. There are lots of reasons and excuses and plenty of blame to go around. Community residents protest and petition city officials and police to do something substantive. City officials point fingers at each other and debate and posture. Meanwhile children die.
Some look on from the outside and say, “They bring it on themselves. They are killing their own people”, or “It’s your own fault for choosing to live in such a bad part of town”… yes, we hear those things, and people actually say them. But to act as if we as a society are not culpable for the ravages experienced among our poor is to be disingenuous at best, and willfully ignorant at worst.
This week will mark the anniversary of the killing of George Floyd here by the police. You’ve heard about the protests and the riots and the trial, but you don’t hear much about the exponential increase in crime and violence here, unless you live in these neighborhoods. Shootings and violence every night, lack of police presence…, you wonder when it will be someone you are close to, if not you yourself.
After a year of Covid, distance learning, and ever escalating violence our children and youth have suffered a terrible toll. After a year of trying to maintain connection with our kids this year through family support, food distribution and one on one visits I’m finally able to gather them together in a limited fashion and do things like basketball and church. I’m shocked at what I see… kids who have given up, kids who are shell shocked, kids who are depressed.
Some, not having the support to engage in distance learning have just given up on school altogether… at best going through the motions. Some barricade themselves in their homes, afraid to go outside because of the frequent shootings. Others have carried on with the façade of doing well on the outside but are terribly depressed on the inside.
I pray and ask the Lord, “What should I be doing right now?” The Spirit tells me that we should keep doing what we are doing… feed the hungry, lift up the poor, befriend the friendless, and love our neighbors. Visit the youth, engage them in uplifting activities, help them have fun and take their minds off of bad situations. Teach them how to negotiate difficult situations, show them God cares for and loves them, model Christian behavior for them and give them hope and a vision for their lives. This is what we’ve been doing for thirty years. I ask, “Lord, is that enough? Will it make a difference?” God tells me, “I am enough, I am the difference.”
So we keep on keeping on. I find one of my kids sitting on his doorstep in a daze with a blank stare on his face…, I get him to smile and we hop in the van to go to basketball practice. I arrive to pick up a pair of siblings at their house and find them hiding in the bushes because just before I arrived there were gunshots nearby. I wake up each morning and drive to pick up a young man to take him to school so he can make up missed work and graduate on time. We recognize birthdays and other events to remind each other that we have things to cherish and celebrate. Lisa coordinated an eighteenth birthday party which was a much needed respite for a young man and his friends who have had a tough time this year.
I recently did the marriage ceremony for a young man who when he was a kid lived under similar circumstance as our kids do today. Lisa and I have known him all his life. We saw him through growing up here, graduating high school, going to college; now married with a home, family and a good job. When you’re deep in the trenches it’s hard to notice if anything is changing… but sometimes you look up and… there it is!
This summer we will take kids to camp. We have 25 spaces and it will cost us $400 apiece to fill them all. If you can help with any part of that it will be greatly appreciated. The Lord bless and keep us all in this time, and see us through to the other side.