I am overwhelmed with the amount of information I have taken in these last few months on everything violent and everything racial. A quick glance at any social media outlet shows us this is becoming the new norm. Everyone wants to be heard, from the stifling cries for justice in New York City to the ones in Ferguson, Missouri. People are destroying their cities all the way to the west coast in the name of the martyrs that paid the ultimate price to bring us thoughtful and sometimes hostile conversation on the matters that plague an often-marginalized population.
Here is my problem. I feel that this has taken a toll on me emotionally. And I imagine that this has taken a toll on a lot of people. It is not easy to keep discourse civil. It is not easy to learn that some of your friends or family have completely different thought processes than you on matters of justice, racism, theology, or life in general. This leads me to the biggest part of my personal problem. I feel as though I cannot turn the violence off.
My wife and I purposely moved into a neighborhood known for violence, poverty, unemployment, dilapidated housing, that harbors a huge resentment for politicians as well as ministries, and that knows a lot about hopelessness and despair. We believe that we currently are and will continue to be a part of the positive change happening around us. We believe in the relationships that we are building with neighbors in the community. We believe in the programs that we have initiated.
I’ve been talking until I am breathless about the hope and vision that members of our community have. I’ve been trying to appeal to people with similar thinking about our desire to have people see the value to where we are at. I feel that people are starting to see the value that we see. Then something happens.
Currently my heart is grieving for the family of a young man that I knew who was shot and killed in a robbery nearby and the man with him that was beaten with a bat. The funeral was yesterday and a lot of the community is still shaken up about it, as the suspects in the attack have not been apprehended. These types of crimes make seeing hope difficult.
I awoke today to more news. A friend of mine, who has been a huge point of connection for me to the neighborhood, was shot 4 times last week and is in serious condition. Not only that, but his girlfriend’s house was shot at several times a few days later, by someone who approached and knocked on the door. One person was wounded in the attack.
I don’t know what anybody reading this thinks of the systemic injustices that lead to events that make national news, but I know this. These same systemic injustices exist in our own community. Policeman did not carry out these crimes. It is not even believed that white people carried out these crimes. I know the victims of these crimes and I know others that have committed similar crimes. I see first hand what they have had to overcome. I see first hand what they are trying to overcome. Often it is social problems that have existed in their families for generations. Often it is an institutionalized form of racism that exists in all of our communities. At times, they are trying to make a better life for themselves or families after being incarcerated. The same opportunities for success just aren’t there. The quality of education is not there. The expectation to live a quality life is also not there.
These are not the first people in my neighborhood that have been shot or killed in our neighborhood. They probably won’t be the last. I wish I could just turn it off like the news and go about my life. I wish I could shut down my computer and make it all go away until next time I log into facebook, but I can’t. I am not as committed to being an Internet activist, because seeing societal injustice, and being an advocate in my daily life is enough for me. I am concerned about things happening at the national level. I even have opinions about it. But I have to be intentional about what is right in front of me. I have to be intentional about living the gospel the best way I know how.
I am disappointed there are not community conversations happening about this. I am disappointed there are not collaborations happening that help address the needs of the neighborhood and greater community, but I am committed to reconciliation, and I am committed to doing what I can to help bring about more collaborative efforts and strengthen our community.
I am approached on a regular basis about my work in the community and how others can help. Sometimes, I feel like perhaps sometimes I accidentally give off a glamorous impression of community development work. I write this simply to let you know that I am struggling. This is difficult. It is often lonely and tiresome work, work that takes a long time. Relationships don’t form over night. There is no reason to expect change to happen over night.
If you have read this far, thanks for caring. If you want to know how you can help there are two ways.
- Your friendship
- Your prayers
If you are a part of the West side of Anderson, consider how you can be a part of our efforts and walk this out with us.
To stay connected to our community check us out on facebook. I plan to post updates more often.