When a Child is Shot on Your Doorstep

A surprising fact that most civilians aren’t aware of is that gunshots can sound an awful lot like fireworks. The only real way to differentiate between the two, is to be aware of the difference in cadence. Fireworks have a much more regular cadence. BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM. The cadence of gunshots is typically erratic. BAM-BAM-pause-BAM-BAM-BAM-pause-BAM-pause-BAM.  But even still, it’s hard to know the difference unless you have been around each. I've spent time in the military. I have been around my share of both fireworks and gunshots alike. I know the difference.

This Saturday evening I heard gunshots.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard them; but it was the first time I heard them and then looked out the window only to see a young man bleeding on the sidewalk within a stone’s throw from my living room window. A young man. Bleeding. A teen. A child.

The police arrived shortly thereafter as did the ambulance. I witnessed the young man being carried away by the paramedics. An hour later the fire department showed up to hose the blood off of the sidewalk. Yellow tape cordoned off the street to identify the crime scene.

Until this evening, I have been sick with worry wondering if the victim was one of my students. I work part-time as an educator and mentor in my neighborhood and some of my neighbors are also students of mine. I finally caught up to the father of the young man I worried had been shot, and he was able to confirm that his son, my student, was safe as he was at a friend’s house when the shooting took place. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when he told me that. Relief that was followed by guilt. Someone had been shot. It wasn’t my student. But someone had been shot. A teenager. A child.

My student lives in the building right next door. His family lives on the 2nd floor. Underneath them live a family of 4. My neighbor and I are fairly certain that someone down there sells narcotics. Whether or not that is true, someone in that home is gang affiliated. I’ve witnessed the activity firsthand. And the events of this past weekend would confirm that for anyone who had doubts. But they aren’t the only ones in this neighborhood who are affiliated. There are a number of them. And even though we live within a half mile from the police station, the gangs’ grip on this neighborhood doesn’t seem to be lessening over time.

What is to be done? Who is to blame? How can we turn this thing around? I’ve spent a lot of time pondering things questions. I’ve also worked to counteract this phenomenon. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough. A child was shot next door. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m writing this because even though I’ve worked to reduce violent crime in my city, I haven’t done enough. Chances are, many of you reading this haven’t done enough either. Do you realize that the cure for cancer might very well reside inside of the mind of an “at risk” child? EVERY child has amazing potential. The kind of potential that when realized might have a tremendous effect on his/her city, state, country, WORLD. It’s true. Because of this, we absolutely have to do more to help them realize that potential.

The South African principle of Ubuntu recognizes the power of the village. Ubuntu loosely translated means, “I am because we are.” This is the only way that we will be able to help ALL of our children realize their potential – by tapping into the power of the village. By getting out of our comfort zone and working with our neighbors to protect the most important asset we have which is the next generation. We can’t rely on this current generation to make revolutionary change. This generation is encumbered. By debt. By obligation. By emotional and mental baggage.  We can’t rely on the cops up the street. They are VERY aware of who slings the dope, and who traffics the weapons, but they turn a blind eye because of graft and bribery and apathy. It is up to us to protect and to enable our children.

Are you willing to accept this challenge?


-H. Pace

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