Tuesday, October 9, 2012

System for Survival

There was a recent occurrence in which a firearm was discharged during a confrontation outside a local school. Coverage of the incident painted a level but nonetheless troubling picture of what happened that day. On reflection, it gave me pause about another serious but longer term matter.

In addition to thinking deeply about what was and is being done about the gun situation, I've also been contemplating the level of concern on the part of folks living here but residing outside the school district where the event happened. A lot of people are talking about it with understandable concern. Some are complaining. To a lesser degree and perhaps more importantly, others are taking action. Much of this is going on in the background to support the efforts by people on the front lines of this unfortunate event playing out in our community.

Most who own or use a computer regularly understand that software programs are always running in the background. These programs typically run unnoticed as we go about whatever it is we’re working on. But whenever a computer is on there are ongoing processes that help keep it operating efficiently.

What’s a computer system got to do with a community incident? The point is that at any given time there’s stuff happening around you that you see, hear or know about. At the same time there are activities and planning happening (some of it really good) that never reaches the general public’s eye or ear. Since I work on issues related to social change, I have the privilege of witnessing the kind of worthwhile things that help contribute to strengthening our neighborhoods. What’s troubling is that not enough people are doing their part. More than a few residents think the affairs of others across town, particularly when troubling, are not their concern. I believe otherwise.

We all have problems, no matter our station in the community. From the richest on the hill to the poorest in the bottoms, life can be tough. Interestingly, many of those problems are similar, like keeping your family secure, maintaining your health, making life better for kids, etc. They also are more connected than we may think. Best intentions get derailed when we start thinking ‘those people’ are different from us. Kind and gentle sentiments go off track when we believe that what happens in one part of town doesn't affect the entire community. But nothing could be further from the truth.

What happens on the north side impacts neighborhoods to the south. And on the east end. And in the suburbs. That's because, like it or not, our community is a system. It's living and breathing, kind of like the human body. Sometimes the head likes to think that what happens way down at the feet doesn't really matter in the broader scheme of things. But get a blister on your toe and let it fester. Anyone with experience knows the sooner you address the issue the better the outcome will be down the road.

What happened at that school is about more than gun violence sparked by an angry dispute. It’s also about injustice and inequity, all ginned up by a lukewarm economy. Right now, public officials in law enforcement, the court and I imagine the school district, are all addressing issues regarding gun incident. But running quietly in the background are others doing their part to address deeper community issues like leadership development, social justice and racial equity. Yet more can be done. What role are you playing? How are you helping? Believe it or not what you do, or don’t do, really matters.

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