Monday, September 27, 2010

Another lesson learned from the streets

Last Thursday afternoon while picking up boys for basketball practice I noticed I was being followed closely by an SUV. Before pulling into the parking lot at the gym one of my boys noticed it also. The car had been following us for a couple of miles and followed me through several left hand turns. I know I hadn't cut anyone off and was wondering why this car was following me so closely. I dropped off all but one of the youth and then I took the junior high school youth to his gym. I couldn't shake the fact that I had been followed closely and it wasn't just a random car. I got home around 7 pm and decided that maybe I was a little paranoid and got ready for the football game.

Let me go back a little and give some history. A few blocks from where I live, there have been some shootings going on over the last few weeks. No one has been shot but the police are aware of some of players and are doing all they can to end the violence before someone gets shot. Someone was even found with a rifle on the roof and the players are being rounded up. There is a problem with keeping them in custody as they've just become adults and although they have records, juvenile records don't follow people as they become adults. Example: if a youth has 2 felonies as a youth and then commits a felony as an adult, there is no 3 strike rule as 2 of the felonies were committed as a youth. This has definitely tied the hands of our justice system from getting some of these bad apples off the street. No one really wants to "snitch" on anyone else as that makes them a target as well as their family members.

Now I'm moving forward in time. This past Saturday one of the boys I picked up on Thursday walked into the gym with 2 of his "friends". One of the leaders of the gym commented on the type of friends the young man is hanging out with as the boys he came with have bad reputations and are known gang members. Now moving forward to Sunday I find out that those boys and the one who I gave a ride to on Sunday may be a part of the gang that is shooting up our neighborhood and starting a gang war with someone who was just released from prison. When I found that out, everything that happened on Thursday afternoon came to light and I was shaken to the core.

For the first time I felt I may or the car I was driving was a target of violence. I've been in some tough neighborhoods yet I was never a target or felt like I was a target. This is not a good feeling and the fact that I have young men in my car doesn't make me feel any better. I'm praying for comfort from the Holy Spirit and that peace and understanding come to these young men who are committed to the violence of the streets. I look forward to talking to the young man who I personally have a relationship with and look forward to hopefully walking him through to safety and a healthy lifestyle. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I go through this time of unrest and please keep the youth in mind whom I've been empowered to help.

I feel like I've had a warning to keep up my power of discernment concerning the streets and the violence which is constantly below the surface here in the North Side of Pittsburgh. I don't question why I'm here nor is this a lifting of the white flag of surrender. This is more of me just figuring out how to work smarter and once again shows me how close to the bottom these boys whom I serve are.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When to give up?

I've been chewing on "when is it time to give up on someone". I've been chewing on this for quite sometime as I've been disappointed by a few of the youth I work with. Without going into details as I think the details are really insignicant the point is, I felt like I just needed to give up on some of the boys I deal with. To be perfectly honest, it would be very easy to do this and would definitely make my life a little easier. Thank God, I didn't act quickly on this thought. I felt I needed some advice from someone who's been down my road and I knew the perfect people to ask. I've written about Reverend Robinson and his wife Dr. Betty Robinson in the past so I won't go into any detail other than they've been doing this for at least 50 years through Education and ministry. They agreed to meet with me. Without going into to much detail about our conversation, the takeaway I had was a simple story Gram (Dr. Betty Robinson) told me of a 50 year old man who she had in her school many years ago. I don't know this 50 year old man's story but Gram told me that she'll see this gentleman from time to time and he'll say "I'm doing good". Considering that he wasn't the best student or citizen she'll take that and hug him and say "I'm proud of you."

I chewed on this for a few days (I'm a little slow). I thought about my own life, I gave up on my family religion, I joined a cult, I made terrible accusations against friends and family members and lots of other things that were unseemly throughout my life. I've given friends and family many reasons to give up on me over the years yet I've been blessed by many and they've stuck with me through the thick and thin. I couldn't help but think about the story of the Prodigal Son in the bible (Luke 15: 11-32 in the New Testament) The father who waits for his son, the son who squanders his inheritance, lives an immoral existance, and ends up on the streets (living with the pigs). I can't help but think of my parents who took me in at the age of 30 to get my life back together after spending 9 years in the cult and basically cutting them out of my life. I think of my brothers and sisters who have shown me tremendous love and acceptance over the past several years after enduring over 5 years family squabble. I think of my friends who have supported me throughout financial crisis, job losses, change of life directions and many other things.

This all comes back to when do I give up on some the boys who have been put into my life and the answer I came up with is "NEVER"!