During a recent trip to the grocery store, a 30-something-year-old woman began to converse with me as we waited in line. Initially, our conversation was light in nature. We chatted about the upcoming weekend and her plans to try a new dessert recipe for her in-laws. However, as the cashier waited for a manger to address an issue the customer three people ahead of us was having, our conversation shifted.
I think it was the “RIP Ryan” T-shirt a teenager had on that led to our topic change.
“Can you believe the violence we’ve been having lately?” the woman asked me.
I shook my head from left to right.
Our conversation halted as we both studied the teenager — each probably wondering who Ryan was to the teenage girl, how old Ryan was, and if Ryan’s life ended tragically like so many others had as of late.
After the brief, quiet reflection period, the woman asked me another question.
“Do you think it will end anytime soon?”
She said she recognized me from the Recorder and she figured I would have a realistic perspective to share. She also said I’d probably have the “scoop” on what was really going on in the streets.
After thanking her for reading the newspaper, I told her I wasn’t sure the violence — the senseless murders, shootings, robberies and crime sprees — would end. I told her if I had to guess, and if history were any indication, the violence probably would not stop anytime soon.
She was in front of me in the line, so eventually it was her turn to check out. As the cashier handed her the receipt, the woman asked me one final question.
“Why do you think there are so many killings?”
My response was quick and heartfelt: “There are so many reasons, more than you probably have time to hear right now.”
She chuckled. We both wished each other well and said goodbye.
That woman’s last question stayed on my mind for the better part of the evening. It was a question that was not foreign to me, as I had asked others and even myself the very same thing time after time after time.
There were a myriad of responses from myself and others:
People don’t value life.
They don’t respond well to authority.
People want something for nothing.
They want to be considered cool or gangsters.
They didn’t have a proper upbringing.
They are products of their environments.
Systemic issues have resulted in their behaviors.
They don’t know the Lord.
They don’t know love.
Indeed, the reasons as to why individuals kill, steal and commit other types of crimes are vast. And I’ve found that even the “reasons” garner more questions.
It can be exhausting to even begin trying to figure it all out, but we must not be discouraged or give up our efforts to determine a solution, nor should we stop trying to combat the violence.
We must not be silent if we know someone is doing something wrong. We can’t be afraid to alert authorities when we witness something or have details that can help a case. We should not shy away from banding together as neighbors to reclaim our communities.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the senseless crimes. I am tired of logging onto social media and reading that yet another family has tragically lost a loved one. It breaks my heart into pieces when I read yet another young man with a promising future has been senselessly murdered. I mourn with parents when I see their heartfelt posts about the child they lost.
I want to always be part of the solutions so I can do my part to diminish the heartache, pain and despair too many people experience unnecessarily. I pray others will join the cause, because only then will we see true and significant progress.