Contending for Peace

IMG_1806After a recent shooting in our neighborhood I wrote this piece for our neighborhood newsletter.  I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from this and it seems that it has struck a chord with many folks.  We’re prayerfully asking, “What do we need to do with this now?”  Will you pray with us as we think about what God and our neighborhood are inviting us to as we contend for peace in Gifford Park.

My family and I were welcomed home today by a bunch of yellow tape and a dozen police cars in front of our house.  Three shots had been fired and according to news reports, someone had been shot in the arm.  The shooter was standing directly in front of my house.

An event like this is both frightening and infuriating.  My mind wanders between, “We could have been outside when this happened and something terrible could have happened to my wife or one of my kids,” to “We could have been outside when that happened and maybe prevented it simply by our presence.”

Its incredible how presence can change circumstances.  I can’t say that the shooting would not have occurred had we been home or outside.  But, I can’t help but wonder how things may have been different if I had been home to engage the two people involved in the encounter.  I do this regularly with the people who pass by my home: greet them, see how their day is going, ask them what their name is.

I firmly believe that our strongest most effective action in the face of violence like this is to be present.  To know people’s names.  To greet the people who walk by our houses every day-even if they look weird to us or make us feel uncomfortable.  To be observant and watch out for each other.  To take notice when something is going on that looks questionable.  To be willing to call the Police if we see something going on that should not be happening.  To be peacemakers in our neighborhood by befriending our neighbors…even the ones that seem to be different than us.

We can’t control other people’s choices or the consequences for their choices.  But we can treat people with dignity and love.  Its amazing what that will do to turn away violence.

I’ve had several calls lately from folks who are concerned about some drug issues in our neighborhood.  My advice is to keep paying attention, call the police if you observe anything illegal, and be every day peace makers by getting to know your neighbors.

There is no fear in love.

See you in the neighborhood.