Sunday, September 16, 2007

Life & Death & The Village

Last Friday night a 14 year old young man was shot in an alley a few blocks away from my condo building. He ended up dieing on the sidewalk directly across from my building. All of this happened around 8pm on Friday night (the 14th). I had ran home around 9pm or so to check something, and it was then that I discovered what happened. There was yellow tape blocking off the scene of the crime, and there were cops everywhere in the street. I had to run the van back to the office, and then walked back to my house thinking about what had happened. As I walked I prayed for the family and friends that were effected, and I prayed for peace (shalom) in the streets that night.

Saturday morning I was off to Ann Arbor for a football game, but the reality of what had happened hit me again on Sunday when I returned from church and saw young people (some of who I recognized from Sexton school) gathered near a memorial they had created for the young man. His name was Dalvin Miller. He was 14 years old, and in the 8th grade at Sexton School. This past week - Thursday - I attended his funeral. I had never seen so many young people at a funeral as probably 75% of the attendees were kids. It was hard to listen to his siblings share poems about how they were going to miss their big brother. It was hard listening to several community leaders (principal, coach, etc.) talk about the potential that this young man had.

One thing that has struck me is how young people process their grief in various ways. Some of them seem to be numb, others very emotional, some stoic. I wonder who they talk to to help them process this. I wonder if adults are making time to listen. I wonder how an event like this shapes a young man or a young woman's life as they process experiencing the loss of their best friend, classmate, or teammate. I also wonder if those who talk about retaliation, really know what that could mean.
At the funeral, the principal from Sexton shared an African proverb that I have heard many people quote over the years. She said, "it takes a village to raise a child." I really like that proverb. The thing that troubles me is that I think the church is supposed to be that village. I think it is supposed to be the "village of Christ" so to speak that is supposed to raise a child. It's ironic that on that Friday night his body ended up on a sidewalk outside of a "commuter church" located within the community. Another sad fact about the events of that evening is that eyewitnesses say that shortly after Dalvin was shot, as he lay there on the sidewalk, a man walking by bent over to look at him, and then stepped over the body and kept walking. (It somewhat reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan.) As I think about it tonight, I'm challenged by what it means to have a "village mentality." What does it mean to truly be a neighbor? What does it mean to "go and do likewise?"
I'll admit that this concept of neighboring is somewhat new to me (where I grew up there weren't really that many neighbors period - Paw Paw). I'm challenged as a Christ-one though to think through more of what it means to be present - a ministry of presence. I am convinced that when violence occurs in the neighborhood, that it's not the time to retreat. It's not time to stay inside. It's not time to withdraw our families. It's not time to move our churches. It is time to be salt and light. It is time to be present. It is time to get to know our neighbors. It is time to speak to the guys on the corner. It is time to is time to pray while walking through the neighborhood.
I'm still processing all of this...I'm learning...