I had been in a missions meeting and did not get cell phone service until I reached my car. My phone dinged with news of a triple shooting. Crime has been up in our city. This made 14 shootings in the beautiful city of Savannah. There has been much talk of heat playing a role and although the heat makes me feel crazy, I don't believe it is capable of pulling a trigger. Sadly, statistically it is true.
Once I confirmed that our students were all inside and ok I began researching what happened and exactly where. The news stations all had different information. The only thing I really had to go on was that the live news report was given in front of a memorial (from a previous shooting victim) right across the street from our students house.
Today we took the students out to lunch to process and talk through things. As we pulled onto their street we noticed that an often active and present community had taken on the form of a ghost town. No one outside and it was eerily quiet. As we approached the front of their home all that remained of last nights events was a small crumpled up piece of caution tape left behind in a yard.
The second the students got in the car they started talking a mile a minute. My head was trying to keep up with all of the information they were throwing out. There was an altercation between men right in front of their house. The next thing you know there were gun shots. A stray bullet hit the metal frame of the living room window only missing the window pain for kids were on the other side watching television on a hot summer afternoon. Chaos filled the living room as everyone ran for cover. One teenager was down the street when he heard the shots and watched as people who were shot tried to run from the shooter. One of the victims fell nearby as the shooters sped away. As we left the neighborhood they were trying to point out where there was still blood on the street and sidewalk. My mind was foggy as I tried to process the information.
As we were walking into the restaurant the 10 year old nudged her way under my left arm and I pulled her close in a hug. When we sat down at the table, she wrapped her arms around my arm and put her head on my shoulder. She simply wanted to be held. She told me about how she was scared to go to sleep after the shooting. Cops and news crews filled her front yard for hours. Collectively, they expressed their fear to live there. A family member said, "if we have ONE more shooting, we're outta here." I could not help but pray that it would not take one more. This is the second shooting that has taken place in front of their home in the past year. They have become prisoners of their own home for fear of what happens outside their door. I'm sure they will reconsider sitting in front of a window in their own living room for awhile. A time of simply relaxing and watching cartoons is now met with the lingering thoughts of bullets possibly invading their space. There are no counselors coming to help the neighborhood kids and families process these things. It is fear that plants a seed in them. Fear makes you angry. Fear makes you nervous. Fear keeps you from sleeping. It is the exact opposite of what children should be experiencing.
Last night as I was reading comments under the news report on the local stations Facebook page, I became so frustrated at people's reactions to chock it up as "another one bites the dust" and "let them just kill each other off." There were more than enough "if we had better police patrol" comments.... Pointing the finger at any possible object of blame.
I can't help but feel like the problem is actually ours. This is not a certain neighborhoods problem. This isn't a race problem. This is JUST a police problem. It is a "love thy neighbor" problem.
The places where crime is high are the places where we need to be standing in the gap and I don't just mean in prayer. We need men to challenge men and women to encourage women. We need adults to mentor these youth who are watching this and following in the footsteps of a life of crime. Yet, these are places we avoid and cast off as someone else's problem. Crime is selfish. These people causing the problems.... are selfish. There are a lot of kids just like the ones we spent time with today that are living in the aftermath of violence with confusion, fear and the need to seek protection (which often comes in the form of gangs).... because this is real life. Who has their back when the bullets fly? It sometimes keeps me awake at night to think we may lose them to the streets where they become a part of the problem. But what if they were surrounded by a community of people who rallied around them, challenged and supported them to choose a different path? What if the kids in these homes became the ones to break the cycle and become people of peace? We have to think beyond the current status of our overflowing prison systems and look to the future.
When you see the news or hear stories like this I would encourage to think beyond the headline and consider the aftermath. Don't stop there. I would challenge you to answer the question," Lord, how could you use me?" Or simply "how does (or should) this impact me and how can I play a role in the solution?" If nothing else, please do not become part of the problem of casting blame but rather advocate for or step up as a voice of truth.
Is it a scary question? Absolutely, which is all the more reason to ask it.