From correcting kids bent on a good time, to hugging the victim of a violent crime, there are a lot of little things we can do.
Four boys ran through the parking lot, haphazardly pushing a store cart. The boys took turns riding in the cart as they exited the lot and headed away from the store.
My husband pulled his truck along side the boys and rolled down his window. “Where are you boys taking that cart?” he asked them. No one answered right away.
“I don’t know,” one of them finally offered.
“Does it belong to you?” my husband asked.
“No,” the self-identified spokesman replied.
“Then you should probably take it back,” my husband told the boys.
Without missing a beat, the boys spun the cart back in the direction of the store and made their way back to the front of the building. They left the cart outside the store’s doors and walked back in the same direction they’d been heading before, laughing and joking as though nothing had happened.
My husband could have kept driving, and frankly, I had hoped he would.
The problem, he told me, is that adults allow teenagers to intimidate them. A group of pre-teen boys intimidates a community because they are allowed to. No one intervenes to stop them, and they become emboldened. Their antics become more dangerous, and any opportunity to neutralize the problem disappears.
Several years later, I realized he was right when reports surfaced that a group of teenagers was terrorizing downtown Louisville, KY.
But doing something doesn’t require vigilantism. It only requires action.
Shaka Senghor, who served 20 years in prison for killing a man, recalls how his life went awry after his family disintegrated. The honor-roll student was shot standing on a street corner near his home in Detroit. He recalls that the doctors removed the bullets and sent him home to the scene of the crime. He also recalls that, after the shooting, no one ever hugged him or assured him that he’d be OK.
Two years later, he shot and killed a man, and then went to prison, where he became jaded and angry. But a letter from his son reminding him to pray to Jesus changed his perspective and set him on the road to redemption.
All because a young boy took action.
And then Senghor shared his message with others who needed to hear it in an attempt to find solutions to problems plaguing “distressed communities.” In short, he took action.
Doing nothing seems innocuous. Harmless even. But if we fail to act, we have made a choice to do nothing. We allow the proliferation of bad without moving to bolster good. It’s no secret that when one side has the advantage of numbers, that side is likely to win.
Let’s stack the deck on the side of good.
Photo: Flickr/Jo Jakeman