For the past year and a half, I have seen my city through a lens I allowed to collect dust. Surely, those people have done this to themselves. Surely, the shootings, killings, and poverty aren’t meant for me to fix. So I turned my face, pointed fingers and turned off the news.
Then it became my job. I started working with hundreds of kids weekly. These are kids who act out in class, fight, steal, lie, cuss, break things, pull fire alarms, start fires, bite, and the appalling list continues. They are the opposite of model behavior and most teachers want them out of their classroom. To be honest, I can’t blame them. They are a nuisance and cause endless distractions.
However, these are also the same children without mom or dad. Their parents lost to drugs, prison or death. These same children are those with empty refrigerators and a mouth full of cavities. They come to school with marks and bruises from secrets they keep. Expected to learn and desperate for attention; willing to do anything to get it.
Simultaneously, a group of mothers meets in support of one another. Only they don’t make crafts or trade recipes. Instead, they share tears. Each one of these mothers has lost a child to violence. To us, it is just another dead gangster, to these women, it is the soul they carried.
When I first came on staff, I cried every day. My tears stopped. It wasn’t that I no longer cared but I wanted to protect myself from feeling broken. Maybe that is the struggle we all face. Not that we don’t care but care too much? Maybe we see the problem and since we don’t have a solution, end up doing nothing at all. Honestly, it is easier to ignore than to face the facts.
In the heart of the Eastside, there is a little hole in the wall establishment called, Stay Focused Ministries. Within this is a mentoring program called, Reach For Greatness. They each have their own goals but meet up to bring hope.
Common things spoken are “You were never meant to be a drug addict.” “You were never made to be a gang member.” “ You were made for greatness.” “We believe in you.” “Never give up.” “Stay Focused and Reach For Greatness.”
I find it fitting as I sit and feel the breeze of a door closing shut. Not as one being slammed but as I enter into a new place and phase in my life.These words ring loud in my heart as I not only hope this for others but for myself. That I am made for greatness, made for more and feel the need to help others do the same.
I will forever be grateful to this place for showing me that people out there are willing to get their hands dirty. That not all people are selfish and best of all, believe in Jesus so much that they are willing to feel pain and heartbreak so others don’t have to.
I never want to stop feeling pain for others. I hope my heart always breaks and never becomes calloused or numb. The only way I can think to live that out is never to stop looking at people in the eye. Never stop asking for their story and never stop believing that everyone is capable of more.
I challenge you to do the same.