My office is located close to the center of a four square mile portion of the city that has been designated as a high crime zone. City police have received federal funding for an increased presence, with about twice as many officers being assigned to patrol this area as other parts of the city. I’m not suggesting it is a war zone. But, our office building has been fired on. A few months ago I had to have one of the plate glass windows replaced, because it had been shot some time the night before.
Yesterday, as I sat on my office, I heard the distinctive sound of gunfire. Two quick pops seemed to come from the direction of the apartments nearby. I didn’t call to report them, because it really wasn’t that unusual. Within a few minutes patrol cars were in the area. I took this as confirmation I had in fact heard a firearm discharge.
Today, upon my return to the office from an out of town lunch meeting, the apartment community across the street was swarming with police. Crime scene tape marked an area where a investigators were scurrying about placing small orange cones and taking photographs. Every television station in the city had a news truck parked on the street in front of the complex. Once I was safely inside my office, I checked the live news feed online, the crawler read: one person reported dead, suspect remains at large.
As I processed the events unfolding around me, the word “senseless” kept coming to mind. There is so much senseless violence going on around us today! That expression is so over used though. But, what word do we use to express our feelings? It goes beyond disturbing, doesn’t it? It’s disheartening, to be sure. The violence which prevails in our times gives me the uneasy feeling at the core of my being that something, somewhere has come unhinged. Things are in such a state it feels like they could just fly apart at any moment.
VIOLENCE! This is such a toxic word. Those who have experienced it don’t have to be reminded of its lingering stench in the inner chambers of their hearts. Make no mistake, those who have perpetrated violent acts are forever affected by it too. Whether we are talking about our own homes, our neighbors’ homes, the nursing home down the street or the apartment building across the street, violence is a pestilence which needs to be eradicated.
But, how? Can we ever put an end to violence? No, we will not be able to eliminate it altogether. The fact that we can not put an end to it completely shouldn’t stop us from doing all that we can to push it to the extreme margins of our culture so that it is no longer the normal we think is acceptable.
Each one of us can decide to be a difference maker. We can refuse to celebrate or even tolerate the violent acts of others. We can refuse to allow hate mongers of all stripes and flavors to have influence in our hearts and homes. We can refuse to participate in or be supportive of a violence oriented “entertainment” industry. We can refuse to do these things and probably choose to do hundreds of other things. We can’t do everything, but we can do something! More importantly, we can choose to follow in the steps of Jesus and simply treat other people the way we ourselves would like to be treated. What a difference this would make!
© Bill Williams
April 29, 2015