I heard one of our leaders say that the answer to violence in low-income neighborhoods was to send in the troops. You know, round up the criminals – as if that had not been tried in our history.
The only part of that which made sense was the word, “send.” Otherwise it was a small idea and an abdication of our humanity and our responsibility as human beings.
Leadership means that those with the greatest need become our greatest priority. And when something is a priority, it requires commitment and engagement – at a very personal level for each of us.
In every neighborhood, we need to ask what is needed. What do the residents want and need in order to live well? They deserve to be asked and to then have their answers be heeded. They deserve this for many reasons, not the least of which is that these neighborhoods have been neglected in inhumane fashion for decades.
The inequality we allow to define our nation is stunning. We call neighborhoods “bad neighborhoods” and cheer when people get out, instead of realizing that we cannot accept neighborhoods as “bad.” We must help, as if our only child is living (forever) in that neighborhood.
Today, in neighborhoods across this country, one can go within a matter of minutes from seeing a neighborhood in which beautiful bike lanes are carved into roads to seeing another in which garbage, glass, and vials litter the entire community.
The answer? If we know a neighborhood has high rates of crime and low levels of access, we engage. We ask and listen. Often, the answer will include job training and connections to employers (and perhaps you as a job coach); youth mentoring and opportunities for young men and women to pursue paths toward independence and financial freedom (and perhaps you as a mentor); positive commerce and access to healthy lifestyles (there are so many ways for you to engage with your company or any group) – all of which will result in safer communities and decisions that will bring about neighborhoods where residents feel pride in themselves and their homes.
Indeed, we need to send – not troops but ourselves, our support, and our commitment.
What can you do?
Engage at www.awidercircle.org