It was overcast and rainy today. So we stayed in like you do. With even a couple of times venturing outside, things still got a little wacky today. Folks were grumpy. I might have overreacted to spilled water. The dog barked way too much at the cat outside and anytime someone made a sudden move. Folks couldn’t get along about what movie to watch or game to play and they couldn’t work together to get chores done. Or respond to requests for action the first three times they were asked.
They We all got cranky.
Not our best day.
I blame it on being stir crazy.
That’s a thing, right? When I worked in childcare, and we had days or weeks of inclement weather, we talked about the children (and others *ahem*) being stir crazy. One summer when the temperature reached so high it was too hot for us to play outside, I remember Mama sending us outside in the dark after our baths to run around in our nightgowns just to burn some energy off. Now I know that was as much for her as it was for us.
Last night I wrote about a man who was so thankful that because of his job he could afford to turn on the cable, so his children could stay indoors and be safe. He lives in a neighborhood where it isn’t safe for them to be outside. I cannot imagine what that life is like, y’all.
Today, in the middle of all of our crankiness, I sat with that for a bit. If these children are staying inside as much as possible to protect them from violence and being susceptible to drugs and gang activity and worse, other bad things can happen. Things that aren’t as immediately harmful, but the long-term effects could be devastating.
These children are more susceptible to obesity because they can’t get out and run around. Sitting inside is necessary for survival, but their little feet need to run free as do their spirits. When I think about the joy it brings me watching Cooter’s hair flying behind him as he rides his bike up and down the street, I grieve for these parents and children who cannot experience that. For the ones in school, I cannot imagine that the limited amount of time spent in PE could completely satisfy their need to run around. Limited physical activity combined with limited budget for purchasing healthy foods can contribute to even more health problems. Many of these neighborhoods are food deserts as well, with few choices for shopping for foods other than snacks or highly processed foods.
My front porch is a “laboratory.” Many of the children on our street come and pick leaves and grass and flower blossoms and concoct all sorts of things. Later they might be running around with pool noodles, using them for goodness only knows, and running around between yards, laughing and chasing and teasing and hiding, and doing all the wonderful things their imaginations come up with. (They also have disagreements, which they have to resolve among themselves for the most part, and that is really good for them too.)
This little neighborhood is where my children are learning about community. About sharing each other’s ups and downs and sitting with each other when they are hurting…..physically and emotionally. I am not saying that these children who are inside all day aren’t learning about community, but I worry about what they are learning about it. I hope there is a community center or somewhere they can get out and learn that people really do care and that there is joy to be found in caring about others and sharing the journey.
Because, if today is any indication, what happens behind closed doors can escalate fast. I cannot imagine what it is like for these parents who are working multiple jobs, fighting to pay bills and stay afloat, worrying over keeping their littles–and their teens–safe and in school. I can only imagine the pressure they must feel. Perhaps they are fighting monsters of their own. And then they are stuck in this place with few choices, where their community is not safe.
Without community to support them or options to explore, things can turn for the worse. People who feel that they have no options or anyone to turn to–I get how frustrating and devastating that can be. All of that has to go somewhere. All too often it goes to substance abuse or abuse to others.
I’m not saying these families are doomed. What I am saying is that I am starting to realize how far-reaching the impact of growing up in unsafe neighborhoods can be. It can affect everything from nutrition and health to social skills to self-esteem, focus, and the ability to dream about the future. Imaginations can suffer, as can relationships. Parents who are struggling and have no support can succumb to the darkness. The youth without anywhere to go might look for any way out–even the one they know is not the wisest choice. Many might find themselves in situations outside the law–our Youth Detention Centers and prisons are filled with people who made poor choices in desperate situations. My own friend grew up in a home without many choices, which contributed to his addiction problems as he tried to numb the pain. He has been in and out of jails and rehab facilities. All because at one point as a young person, he felt he was out of choices.
I am broken because tonight, as I wrote this, I was waiting to hear about the appeals that were in the U.S. Supreme Court to save the life of Joshua Bishop by giving him a stay of execution. He was abused and neglected as a child, and when he was barely a legal adult, he and an older man murdered a friend with whom they’d been drinking and doing drugs. The older man was sentenced to life in prison. This young man was given the death sentence. He is reformed and has been a good role model for others while in prison. The families of the victims have asked that his sentence be commuted. Seven out of the twelve jurors who sentenced him to death have asked for the sentence to be changed to life in prison. Yet the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has said no, as did the Georgia Supreme Court. And then, so did SCOTUS. And so, tonight at 9:27 p.m. he was executed.
It’s all so broken. I want to scream and yell–WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?!
I am left to wonder, as I ask for Grace and Mercy, what part his community or lack thereof played in all of this?
Tonight I’m holding all of this in my heart, and I ask what we–because it will take all of us as a COMMUNITY–can do to change things for these families, for these neighborhoods? What are we missing out on because one of these children–and there are so many of them–didn’t reach his or her full potential because of the broken community they were raised in? Because their community was unable to circle close around and provide guidance and safety and encouragement and rules and advice and resources and options…..
all the things I was raised with but took for granted every single day.
Y’all we need to grab these children and families up and wrap them in a big hug and then ask them how we can help them change their world as best as we are able in whatever way looks best for them. Because here’s the deal–their world is our world and our world is theirs. There’s no us and them–it’s all we and us. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
I’ll meet y’all outside. Let’s make it safe for all, so no one has to be afraid behind a locked door. And miss out when the good things come knocking at that door.
Love to all.
You can read more about Joshua Bishop’s case here.
This video is a powerful one, a message from a local Superior Court judge to young people. YES. I am thankful for her words and the fact that she cares.