How Should I Respond to Shootings in My Neighborhood?

A prayer born in feeling helpless

© WikiCommons

2 min read

The last few years, we have lived in two neighborhoods of Milwaukee. The first house was on a busy street filled with bars and tattoo shops. We moved there from the suburbs, because we wanted to be closer to the problems of the city. 

That sounds counter-intuitive, I realize, but that was our motivation. There are many problems in our city. In every city of North America, right? 

The truth is, I feel helpless most of the time as to how to make a difference, or do good. Some people respond to problems by setting out immediately to solve them. My wife does this better than me. Most often, I feel inept.

So when I started to pay attention to the shootings happening each week within a mile or two of our home, all I could do at first was simply that: pay attention. I read about them in my morning news feed. Then I began to chart them on a map. 

The truth is, I feel helpless most of the time as to how to make a difference, or do good. 

Most of the shootings, I learned, related to drug dealing, or revenge-taking. Someone’s son killed someone else’s son for $300. A young mother was shot on a street corner during what seemed to have been a gun fight between two apartment windows.

When one night a shooting took place only half a mile away from us, not knowing what else to do, I went to that corner on the morning after. I wanted to see where it was. And then I simply wanted to pray. 

I prayed: “God, our problems are so great. They seem unfixable. I don’t know what to do. But here I am. Somehow, I remained convinced, that You are here. Somehow. Comfort them all in their suffering. The mothers of both the shot and the shooter, remind them of Your love and show me, show all of us, how to remind them of the same. Amen.”

I’ve taken this simple practice to other suffering corners, since that first morning. I don’t know if it does any good at all; in fact, I’m sure it doesn’t; but it is what I do.

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