I haven’t posted in awhile because I haven’t known what to write. That’s not exactly true – I have known what I would like to write but it wasn’t appropriate for me to do so. My experiences of late have been of a very personal nature, and writing about them would break confidences. But they have been sad, involving deep family dysfunction…Jodina said, “this is what it looks like when you are an adult who has never addressed the abuse in your past”. Profound depression, poor parenting choices, everyone hurting.
And then yesterday there was an excellent article in the New York Times called, “The Price of Public Violence”:
We report on the killers and the killed, but we ignore those who have been wounded or who have witnessed the shootings. What is the effect on individuals — especially kids — who have been privy to the violence in our cities’ streets?
The ugliness and inexplicability of the violence in our cities comes to define you and everyone around you. With just one act of violence, the ground shifts beneath you, your knees buckle and all you can do is try the best you can to maintain your balance. But it’s hard.
A week ago last Friday UrbanPromise hosted its annual MLK speech contest, hosted by the after school programs. The first speaker up was a 3rd grader who described how she lost two family members to violence last year – two of the crosses in front of City Hall were related to her. She then spoke with the wisdom of someone much older that 8, describing resilience and hope. Many of the children that evening – ranging from second to twelfth grades – spoke of personal experiences of violence, and the insight that comes with it. I sat there thinking again, “I wasn’t thinking about these things growing up. My kids didn’t think about death growing up.” But it is indeed the norm for our neighbors in Camden.
I have hope too, just like the 3rd grader. UrbanPromise has been chosen to receive free training on a program called, “Sources of Strength”, which will educate adults and teens to identify and build on the resilience that is present to some degree in each one of us. Billed as suicide prevention, it goes much further than that, with the potential to change culture through peer leadership and mentoring. We will receive education and support throughout the year, with the goal of developing sustained programming at UP. Here is a link to a video which provides a great overview:
Another piece of good news – one of the former students at UP, with whom I have been talking quite a bit, is starting a new chapter in his life tomorrow – he is moving to Atlantic City to participate in the Covenant House program. He will have housing AND a job. I truly believe that his being able to speak about his abuse-ridden past has freed him to look toward the future. I wish I had a before and after picture of his face – today he was positively glowing.
And wish me luck tomorrow evening! I am going to speak for the first time to a congregation other than mine, at Logan Memorial Presbyterian Church in Audobon. And I am not going alone – my whole Lenten study group I am leading – all 11 of us – are going! It will be a time of spiritual nourishment as we break bread (and drink soup) with members of two congregations. It is this support that is so sustaining.