"Reclaim the Community"

Mine was an eventful weekend – a gallery opening on Friday night, a historic bike tour on Saturday morning and a graduation picnic for my 13 year old niece in the afternoon.   In between I drove to the northwest side to pick up my 8 year old great nephew – my sister’s grandson -- so we could spend time together in celebration of his being named both Most Scholarly Student and Most Personable Student.  I won’t go into the challenges he’s faced in his life other than to say that they are a testament to his tenacity, determination and special blessing.  I believe God has laid hands on him. Sunday after church together, we stopped to have the car washed.  Had I known he’d never gone through a car wash, I would have made a point to drive through with him in tow, but following my normal routine at this particular station, I simply turned the car over to the attendant.

While we waited for the car to be washed we lounged outside the station enjoying the warmth of that new summer sun.  While standing there I looked up to see a pair of black gym shoes  strung across the cable lines that traversed the sky -- hanging like baby booties on the mantle.

“What are those shoes doing there?” I asked rhetorically.  He replied, “Somebody got shot.  Those are somebody’s shoes that died.” 

I was struck immediately.  What kind of world do we live in when an 8 year old boy can speak of death so casually.  What kind of world where death is so normal and suspended shoes so familiar? 

The conversation is the same everywhere I go.  Everyone is talking about the marauding teens.  The boys in white tee-shirts gang mobbing stores and snatching product off the shelves, coming down on groups of people who possess the things they desire – I-pods, I-pads, smart phones, whatever, and just taking them.  Someone called what they’re doing anarchy.  Bands of uncontrolled, leaderless 13-16 year olds linger in the middle of streets, blocking traffic and daring anyone to protest.  I heard of a boy who attacked a man old enough to be his great grandfather to maintain his imagined manhood – his respect. He reached through the car window and punched him in the face, knocking his eyeglasses helter skelter just because the man was unfortunate enough to travel down that particular street.  Someone told me about the boys in the criminal justice system that treats it as though they’re on a lark.  Who really cannot comprehend the severity of their crimes nor fully understand what it is they’re doing wrong -- the boys who demand, but won’t give, respect.

This story is repeated too often in our community.  The difference is that they’re getting younger and younger.  We’re standing at a dangerous intersection and if we don’t do something – and quick – a crash is coming that will leave more gym shoes than we can begin to imagine suspended from cable lines.

I want to tell the good stories – and there are many.  I want to proclaim my pride in those young people who are doing great things like my nephew.  I want to celebrate their successes.  But right now, at this juncture, I want us to stand up and reclaim our communities.