You probably think I live in a war zone. Between the murder of my friend’s father last October and what I’m about to tell you, you might think, “Wow, she is really tough.” Alternately, you might think, “Wow, she is really stupid.” You get to pick. Editor’s note: she is both.
Two Thursdays back, I sat at my computer reading up on the latest neighborhood shenanigans on the Next Door app. This headline stopped me in my tracks:
It’s about ten blocks from where we live, so yeah, “Armed Robbery In My House” grabs you by the front of your shirt with both hands and slams you into the wall. It’s the kind of header meant to grab your attention, and it did just that. I read the victim’s story, and felt for myself, my neighborhood, not scared but sad. He further described in vivid detail the attack, his injuries, and resolution; at that time, any resolution was in its infancy. I got to thinking, “Wow, that was really close to Matt’s house,” before I connected the dots: It WAS Matt’s house. It was Matt. We are not brother-and-sister close, but he’s the kind of guy everyone knows and likes. His record album collection makes me googly-eyed, and he knows a little bit of something about everything. He’s one of the good guys.
I sent him a Facebook message telling him how sorry I was, and asked if I could bring him something (soft) to eat or maybe help clean up his house. I’ll never win awards for housekeeping, but when your friend’s house is covered with his own blood, you figure you could probably step up to the plate for him. He responded by asking me to bring him lunch, and I was happy to be able to do something.
Wendy’s Meals on Wheels pulled up, and I was expecting an eggplant-colored face to greet me. He looked better than I was expecting to be perfectly honest, but you are never prepared to see a stitched-up perfect circle embedded into your friend’s cheekbone. That circle? Just happened to be the size of the shotgun barrel used to shove him to the ground. It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t go into greater depth, but a few weeks later it’s still very much weighing on me. It is not my story to tell, but it is my concern. It’s my sadness at this violent, brazen attack on my friend in our neighborhood. What the hell, world? When did things get so far off-track? Why?
Responses to his posting ranged from expressions of friendship, admiration of his bravery, concern, and sympathy to “you need to get a big dog” to “I teach a concealed carry class, won’t you join us?” A person shouldn’t need to have a big dog to protect himself! A person shouldn’t have to feel she or he needs a concealed handgun to hang out in her living room! None of us should have to fear the nighttime, hell, we shouldn’t have to fear the daytime for that matter.
Writing the previous sentence, I understand that I sound a little white middle class-ish, blind-eye-ish. I skim the daily paper’s headlines, but don’t watch the news anymore (because I like to be mostly sane), so I’m not unaware of the plight of citizens residing in warn-ravaged nations. I have a roof over my head; I have electricity and running water, clothing and enough food, so I’m luckier than millions of others across the globe. But every single day, every single day, I drive through and work in the toughest, most impoverished and violent neighborhoods in my city. I don’t live it myself, but I get it via a guest’s immersion of sorts. For twenty-six years I have worked in neighborhoods that would likely make most of you tinkle in your pants from fear even to dip a toe in. I’ve met children and families living in extreme poverty, and they’ve welcomed me into their lives and homes, shown me hospitality and kindness.
I’ve also been harassed by city denizens. I’ve been called a white bitch, a cracker, a wide array of clever/horrible/amusing/demeaning epithets simply for being there. I’ve been told that since I am white, I have no business teaching children who are not. But this is not a treatise on race relations, because poverty and violence don’t discriminate based on skin color. The group of men who invaded my friend’s home consisted of African-American, Hispanic and white males, and I hate to perpetuate stereotypes. My lifetime of experiences has taught me that stereotypes can be far from accurate. And divisive. I’m done with divisiveness, and man I can’t wait for the politicians to catch up to me here. Anyway.
My husband works for the city; one of his co-workers was shot while making a lift in a bucket truck. He was shot by paint balls, thank the stars, but still, some joyriding cretin thought it’d be funny to shoot at a guy, scaring the crap out of him, just for kicks. This is fun? I must have a sophisticated sense of humor then, man.
I know enough to know I know nothing about how to fix this. But, Little Mary Sunshine here wants this to be the last attack on someone I know. I want this never to happen to my kids, my husband, a friend. OK, I want this crap never to happen. There. I said it. Pollyanna is screaming at you, criminals! It’s not OK that it’s happening in the ‘hood, and that now that’s it’s closer to home, I’m suddenly queen of the block watch. No. It’s not OK that it’s happening anywhere. That is the main idea here.
My friend’s physical injuries will heal. The hole in his floor can be patched or covered. But what about the loss of feeling safe in your very home? The loss of faith in basic human decency?