I know a lot of my fellow northsiders are concerned and angry about the level of violence on our streets over the last few days. I read the Facebook posts. I agree, I too am saddened and frustrated, yet am encourage by people pulling together in actions of support and prayer.
However, I want to encourage us all to take the long view (if possible) in such a moment of crisis after crisis. First of all while the last few days have been outrageous, the general trend over the last several years has been fewer shootings and less crime in general. While month to month and year to year varies, language that suggests things are only getting worse is not helpful. In many ways (contrary to popular belief) things are better than past years. Having lived in the neighborhood for over 25 years I can definitely see improvements. We can be thankful for the great work of parents, schools, churches, parks, and great youth programs, which are self-lessly giving to love, and care – providing work, modeling responsibility and going beyond expectations. I hate to sound cliche – but things could be worse if not for all the great works so many ARE doing!
Secondly – neighborhoods need neighbors, not just critics. We all have to find the niche we can fill on our block, at a local school, in a community park or group. While the violence seems so obscene and senseless. The children running the streets with guns are our kids. You may not have given birth to them but you share community with them and they are only trying to find what most of us received automatically; respect, belonging, and in a word, love. The violence of the last few days did not begin in the last few days, it is rooted in years of alienation and struggle. While we want immediate action and we want to DO something to end it now, real solutions are the result of long term investments. I appreciate the difficult and dangerous work the police have to do, but their job is the last line in maintaining public safety, public safety begins with us.
Sometimes it is tempting to blame the devil, demons, and such for the violence on our streets. But evil can only triumph where the good is absent. It easy to ask God to fix our social problems. When Moses was angered over the struggle and human abuses he saw in Egypt, God eventually met him in a burning bush and said:
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians… Exodus 3:7-810
I’m sure Moses was thrilled, God was coming to save the day! But then God turned the tables on Moses:
…So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh…
God has already provided solutions to the struggles and violence on our streets. Its just up to us to go and do it. Love your neighbor as your self. For years, our society had generally rejected this basic command, much of the violence we see just the “chickens coming home to roost.”
I grieve with those who have lost loved ones, I stand with those whose streets have erupted in violence and I encourage us all to see the beauty of our community and seek to work together to make it an even better place for all.