Stopped In My Tracks

My commute to and from work is relatively short– only about 20 minutes, door-to-door. With such a short trip, I become keenly aware of anything that lengthens it. I mean, I’m a fairly impatient person, so anything that causes me to slow down without my consent presents a challenge for me.

This evening my return trip was brought to a standstill by a protest on Lake Shore Drive. My initial reaction was, “…seriously, a protest right during rush hour! I thought they did protests downtown.” My second reaction was, “smart idea, actually, good for them…” even though I wasn’t even sure what it was about.

When I got home I went online to see why the crowds had gathered and I was immediately confronted with a photo of the protesters. The image was an all too familiar one, angry faces, clenched fists, signs raised. But, one thing stood out to me– several signs which read, “North Side Ignores Gun Violence”

You see they were protesting gun violence, yes, but more specifically their goal was to “redistribute the pain” caused by gun violence in this city. I felt that lump in my throat as I gave that a long hard thought.

We can so easily become numb to someone else’s pain… sometimes we even become numb to our own pain. In a city as large and segregated as Chicago, we can indeed turn our attention to our own pressing issues of potholes and burnt out streetlights, while we quietly sweep the violence of the south and west sides of this city under the rug. Even though we feel anger about gun violence, maybe even witnessed a violent act in our own neighborhood, we still view it as an “outside” element that has somehow pushed its way into our typically peaceful streets. “It never used to be like this in our neighborhood” someone recently said to me, referring to the turf wars between gangs. We seem to forget that Chicago has long been a violent place, with the 1990s bringing a level of gang violence that swept through the city like a cancer.

Jesus’ wisdom teaches us that there is no division between God and human, human and human. The only walls we experience in relation to one another are the ones we artificially erect– they are not a natural part of creation. When one person is hurting, we all hurt. When one person is murdered, it is a death we all feel. Or, at least, we can… if we move into the unitive spirit that Christ teaches. The one-ness that God created us to be.

Love leads to empathy. Empathy leads to compassion. Compassion leads to hope. Our relationship with God opens a door to greater interdependence and from that interdependence, we can participate in bringing about a new creation. Pray for peace for those who have lost someone to gun violence. Pray for rest for those who have lost their lives. Pray for healing for those who took that life. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)

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