I messaged my friend yesterday to give my condolences for losing someone he knew. A victim of gun violence. Another victim from a public housing complex downtown where this happens way too often. Do a search for the name of the complex and the results are a chronological listing of crime reports and news headlines. The shooting happened over a petty argument between two groups. Then someone grabbed a gun and shot twice.
You may have read that and sighed. My guess is that if you are picturing the victim in your mind already, you may be wrong.
The victim was a 14 year old girl. And one that was intelligent, sweet, involved, a leader, giving and thoughtful. One with an otherwise bright future. My friend was one of her mentors. Senseless violence is an understatement in this scenario. Even more so that the shooter was another girl that just turned 18.
Both are victims of our culture that seems to either allow or perpetuate this angry, prideful lifestyle more than try to change it. After any violent event there may be protests or talking heads demanding whatever it is they demand, but whatever they’re asking for isn’t working. Homicides in Nashville, after years of decline, have doubled this year. All of us are getting worked-up, scared, or cynical with this 24-hour, nation-wide news at our fingertips spewing today’s latest tragedy.
Even so, hearts haven’t changed.
It’s the only type of change that will actually make a difference, and the hardest one to make happen. Well, it is if you’re thinking of it on a grand scale. Maybe it’s my own cynicism but laws and national programs aren’t going to make a dent. But see, there’s this one person headed for a disastrous event. Could you give them hope, support, encouragement?
This 14 year old girl had that encouragement and hope. In an interview she said she dreamed of being a nurse, basketball player, or actress. She was known as a leader in her after school programs. When asked if she could change one thing in the world, what would it be? And in the worst twist of fate she answered “my neighborhood.”
Her path was on the right track. Her story was supposed to end better than this. She had people in her life giving her direction. My thoughts instead turn to the shooter. I wonder if her life was filled with the same words? If not, how did she fall through the cracks? Who could have stepped up and made that difference in her life? One where she might have at least given a second thought to finding a weapon to resolve her issues. Whether she found a gun, knife, stick, or fist, her heart was stubborn and cold.
It’s not good enough to simply be sad about this. It’s does this little girl’s life no justice to just get upset that it happened. If no one makes a tangible step, then the only expectation is that this will happen again tomorrow. (And surprise, it did).
This story shook me. I think it’s because of my “Little.” Over a year ago I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters for this very reason. I was frustrated. My choices were to remain frustrated, become apathetic, or do something. So I joined and they matched me with a bright, introverted, sweet kid. He’s also 14 years old. He lives near where the shooter lived.
The last time I dropped him off, a group of smaller kids were upset that his brother was hit (probably by accident) and one of them said “You gonna beat him up?!” I stayed a while to make sure it wasn’t serious, and it wasn’t. But I flashed back to that moment as soon as I heard about this girl. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my Little. I can help him, but who’s out there helping the other kids that he’s going to interact with? Who’s breaking the cycle for his shooter? (I got chills writing that question.)
You have to do something. All of this drama is meaningless. Why get upset? Why watch the news? Why pretend that you care if you don’t do something? Love without action is pointless. Don’t even call it Love.
We all have our various talents and interests, so the details of what we do are not going to look the same, but might I give a few (local) options:
Mentor. Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys/Girls Clubs, Youth Encouragement Services
Homeless: Nashville Rescue Mission. Many opportunities there.
Abused: Thistle Farms
After school programs
Your local church, and not just “going to church”. <- (See pointless above)
At the very least, donate. Items or money. You could donate specifically for the girl in this story (I didn’t want to be exploitative by using her name.) As long as you keep in mind that a donation is to assist the people making a difference, and that you having a personal relationship with someone has the strongest impact.
Be engaged with your own neighbors. Be a decent person in general, for Pete’s sake! Why is it rare to simply be polite and conversational in public?
There are countless other organizations. The opportunity is there. The need is most definitely there.
Our choral director in college would say, after a weekend trip working with youth groups, “You never know the good that you do.” He would hear the comments and get the emails from the host church, and share a few with us later on. Stories we otherwise wouldn’t have known. Impact we wouldn’t have known. Remembering that phrase helps cure my apathy. Think if by some domino effect you have already saved a life, and you just never knew the good that you did.
If you make an impact on one life, you have made all the difference to them.
Honor this girl’s life. Do something.