Warning: The information in this post may be a little much for most people to handle--especially those who are family or who have stayed with me or visited me. If you already have preconceived notions about the inner city or if you intend to develop a fear of my neighborhood or the people in it, please do not read any further. I do not want you to reinforce your preconceived notions.
I read a report in the newspaper yesterday. I never read the newspaper. It was a small, last minute paragraph telling about news that probably came in after the deadlines. It said a passenger in a car had been shot in the face when the car had stopped to ask directions. The street name caught my eye. I knew the address. I recognized the street name of where they drove to call for help.
It concerned me.
I re-read the paragraph several times thinking, "Wow. So many things have happened over the past couple of years around here. Have I been oblivious to the type of neighborhood I live in or has crime gotten worse??" Because of the brazen nature of the crime, it bothered me a little bit about my neighborhood and made me think about being more careful.
I had nearly forgotten about it until this afternoon. One of my friends came up and told me that Tim* was the person that shot the man. My heart immediately got heavy. What is really probably a little bit twisted on my part is that the fact that I knew who shot the man somewhat relieved me. I know Tim so I know (or am pretty confident that I know) that Tim would never hurt me. But, I wondered, what in the world ran through his mind to cause him to pull out his gun and shoot a man who was simply asking for directions???
I always hesitate in writing about stuff like this because I know that this is exactly the type of thing that most people expect from the inner city: It's all about violence...There are a bunch of crazy people there and you never know what might happen to you. I know people think that. I've heard the way people talk. The inner city is so much more than that...and that's what I want people to see.
But, the truth of the matter is that things like this *do* happen.
What I wish we would focus on instead of the fear, however, is the concern for people like Tim. What has happened throughout Tim's life that has gotten him to this point? What needs to happen in this neighborhood to provide enough hope so that people don't want to do those things? What is it that makes someone so angry and hardened that they can take someone else's life and not feel immediate remorse? What is it that creates that "eye-for-an-eye" mentality instead of "turn the other cheek?" And WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE ASKING THESE QUESTIONS??????
In the past, something like this would have made me cry. I don't have as many tears anymore. Perhaps that says something about my own hardened outlook on life. I am still sad for Tim. But I am more concerned and saddened that I live in a society that doesn't ask the questions that will prevent there being more Tim's in the future. I live in a society that thinks if they live far enough away from neighborhoods like Tim's, they can isolate themselves and their children from the Tim's of the world.
Perhaps that's what the man in the car thought...until he accidentally drove through the "wrong" neighborhood. Then, all of a sudden, the Tim's...and what they did or didn't get in life...mattered to him.
*not his real name