This week has been a fairly emotional week as I have found out about friends who have returned to crime, others who have returned to drugs, and others who have been victims of those things. But as I have somewhat wallowed in my misery this week, I also had to ask myself, "How can I think it's fair for me to be consumed and distraught by some of the activities of this week when I've only been living in this neighborhood for 13 years...and only really been allowed inside knowledge of some of the stuff that goes on around here for about the last 5 years???"
What about the people who have grown up living this life?!
How do they feel??
How do they function on a daily basis??
I process my feelings through talking to others. So, when I have an emotionally trying week like this one, I talk about how concerned I am and how much it bothers me.
Ever notice other people....people who live in tough neighborhoods...people who have grown up in tough neighborhoods...don't go around talking about the death and backsliding they see or have seen?
It's too real.
It happens too often.
After a while, you stop talking and just deal with it.
A friend of mine told me that as a young child, she came home to see three dead bodies propped up in the common area of her apartments. I would've never thought that she had that in her storage of memories. She told me who the mens' sister was. It never occurred to me that perhaps some of the rude and tactless behaviors their sister exhibits might stem from all of the pain she still has from their deaths.
The longer I'm here, the more information I find out; the more information I know, the more I am amazed at how people function on a day-to-day basis. The people around here don't advertise their pain. Some anesthetize it through drugs. Some violently fight back. Some have difficulty in keeping jobs. Some have been permanently disabled emotionally. And some just suck it up and keep going at whatever level they've made it to in life.
As I talked to one of my 23 year old friends, he explained to me, "It's always going to be this way. There's nothing you or I can do about it."
He knows that there are so many forces working against us. And the problems almost all need to be solved simultaneously for everything to work. I don't blame people for not feeling hopeful. It's hard to see someone you think has the potential for success...and just as you see them reaching it...slip right back into the game so easily.
But I refuse to believe that things can't change. I refuse to think that the good people I know in these neighborhoods can't help instigate some of that change.
To continue to live, I have to believe change can happen.
I have to hope.
I have to dream...and encourage others to dream...beyond the community we currently live in and imagine ways our community can be made fuller and more compassionate.
I see why people in our inner cities are so cynical and distrusting of outsiders who come in and proclaim there's a better way. It's much more complicated than a 6-week program that offers "solutions." There's nothing simple and there are no easy solutions.
Outsiders can say all day long that "they understand." Intellectually, yes, perhaps they understand. But the pain is much different and has a much different effect on lives when it's personal.
Ultimately, hope has to come from inside the community. That's a hard sale. But I know it can be done.
I also know that the hope is going to have to come from outside of the community as well. The toughest inner city communities did not become like this on their own. There are economic, racial, and social forces that have contributed over many years. Therefore, they are not going to turn around on their own. It takes a lot of resources, a lot of belief in, and a lot of time, effort, and long-term commitment by many different people.
We all need to partner with, listen to, and HEAR the community's cry.