Tonight I spent some time with an old friend, Dwayne, a young man whose home we furnished four years ago after meeting his mom through a social worker. Dwayne was fortunate enough to get to Florida for college after graduating (barely) from a DC high school. It looks like he may have a chance to succeed – to actually graduate college and get a job where he is independent and – mostly – alive when he is 22.
I remember his group of friends from high school and I asked Dwayne about them. None actually graduated high school, and this was how he matter-of-factly caught me up on their lives:
“Lashan has a kid and he is always fighting with his baby’s mother. He works at CVS. J.T. gets out of jail next month after serving two years for assault. Donald is serving seven ‘cuz he used a loaded gun when he tried to rob someone. So, if you have a gun that is loaded, they will give you more time.”
I remembered these guys, and even though I hear these stories every day, I was still surprised that the two in jail could do what they had done.
Dwayne told me how dangerous his neighborhood has become; you can barely walk anywhere at night because people are sticking other people up all the time. Police are everywhere, he said, but not enough to stop people from killing one another.
We said goodbye; I drove away and honked as Dwayne headed to the bus. I feared something would happen to him tonight – or tomorrow night. He goes back to college on Tuesday. Seeing him turn and wave left an uncomfortable feeling – it was as if time stood still for a moment; his image like a photograph. I hope it is not the last image I have of him.
I drove back to work realizing how hard it is for the mothers of these kids – how they must worry every night about whether or not their children will be alive in the morning.
Sitting down at my desk, I thought back to a conversation I was having with another friend last week – someone whose life has been blessed enough to not know the kind of poverty Dwayne and his family know. I had shared with him the goals of A Wider Circle, and the fact that we are driven by one thing – ending poverty.
“You need to be realistic,” he said, convinced that my goal was idealistic and unattainable.
“Nope, we need to create a new reality,” I offered, convinced that not enough of us realize that we do, in fact, create our reality each day. For Dwayne’s mom – for each of us – we need to create a reality where our resources go to solutions, real solutions, right now. And we can not just talk about it, we have to act. And we can not do small things, we have to do all that is necessary to save these lives. For what kind of a species has the resources to care for its most vulnerable and does not do it?