When violence is all around you should you live or just exist?

When violence is all around you should you live or just exist?
These are MY stars and stripes

Since Saturday, I’ve been wanting to write to you about the “monumental thing that happened to me” on the way home last week.  I was excited to tell you and I wanted to share with you the information.  But every time I try to think of the best way to say it my mind can’t focus.  It keeps drifting…

I keep thinking of how two of the shootings from this past weekend’s too-routine Chicago weekly violent crime rundown happened very near me.  I’m thinking of the bystander who was wounded.  I’m thinking of the person who was targeted and killed.  I’m thinking of the person who thought that raising a gun, aiming, pulling the trigger and ending another person’s life was his right and his best solution.  And I’m thinking of all of their families and friends who have to live in the aftermath.  I live in the middle of it, but it’s as unreal to me as it is to someone who reads about it in a small town halfway around the world.

Street memorial to a slain local rapper

Street memorial to a slain local rapper

On the way home just now I had to drive past the scene.  I could see the all too common memorial with the posterboard, photos, balloons, stuffed animals and candles.  An image that’s become so familiar that it could replace the red stars on the City’s flag.  What I saw was an army of young people standing around.  Mourning the loss of their friend.  Or looking for more trouble.  Or both.  These days it’s hard to say.

My area has seen some rough times over these last few years.  Like many neighborhoods across the city.  This year has, thank you to God, been quieter and calmer.  Neighbors marvel about it in passing with a nervous sigh of relief. We haven’t been hearing so many of the nerve-shattering eruptions of gunshots this year for some [awesome] reason.  That is, until last Saturday.

After the luxury of sleeping late, I got up and cleaned my kitchen, listened to the radio, washed my hair, and puttered around the house.  I had a pleasant conversation with a resident in my building then headed to the grocery store for some fresh fruit to take to my sister’s block party.  Yellow mangoes, nectarines, cherries.  A bag full of summertime.  Had a really great time with my family, stayed after to help clean up, came home and went to bed.  A pretty routine day by anyone’s standards.

The next morning, the same neighbor told me a sudden burst of gunfire broke out so soon after I left and so close to the path I had just crossed that his immediate thought was to be so glad that I left when I did.  Then I found out the homicide I mentioned happened not long before I got back home (about the time I was cleaning up after the party). And sometime in between the two incidents, another burst of gunfire blew out the windows of a daycare near me which, thanks be to God, was empty for the weekend.  In my fifteen years of living here I have no knowledge of that many incidents happening in such a condensed amount of time.

That means that after months of relative quiet,  THREE separate incidents of gunshots happened within a 2-block radius within SIX HOURS.  THAT is how sudden, sporadic and seemingly random violence breaks out.  There is no predicting.  There is no forewarning.  And it can blaze an indelible path through the most common of days.

This is the day of the week I committed to get back into blogging after a long absence.  I started at the beginning of June and I have not missed a week since.  I had been looking forward to this particular post to mark a two month run of consistency.  And prove to myself that my goals for my life are important enough to deserve my own commitment.

But when I was coming home just now, already with a heavy heart and no small amount of gnawing fear of what might come next, and I saw those kids, standing around and missing a friend who is never coming back, my first thought was that sticking to my commitment and writing a post tonight really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I’m feeling sad and numb and I just wasn’t in the mood to share my thoughts.  When the difference between life and death could be as simple as being delayed by a conversation with a neighbor or staying late at a party to help clean up, does it really matter if you sit down and tap out a few words on a screen?

Then I decided that this was EXACTLY why I needed to write a post tonight.  Because fear and negativity and despair and evil actions can take over if you chose stop living in favor of merely existing.  It can be very hard to live a “normal” life in the midst of such abnormal situations.  But you have to.  When you’re trying to be productive and live your life in a positive way, you can’t let yourself get sidetracked when bad things happen all around you.  Or else the bad guys win.  And we can’t let that happen.

Writing this post is helping me to remember that not all of the power rests in the hands of those who chose to do harm but also with the multitudes more who chose to stay and stabilize some of our troubled communities.  Check out this post from the Purple Reigns blog “Thugs will not run me out of Chicago.”  Without this quiet majority who knows how much worse off things would be?

And if you don’t mind giving me some time to gather my thoughts and shake off this feeling, I will tell you about that monumental thing.  Because life goes on.  And so should we.

Read the next post: “On holograms, stabilizing neighborhoods and the wolf you feed.”


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