Monday, March 22, 2010

The Price We Pay

Like oil dripping down Aaron’s beard, in the wake of the loss of life we have faced in the past few weeks, prayer is a healing balm to our city.

Where else can we go for the answers to the complex questions life begs than at the feet of the Almighty? Limited in understanding the differential between our knowledge and the actions of Providence is a billion light years apart.

Our culture is unusual in that we are surprised by suffering in contrast to others in antiquity who expected life to be a journey often filled with sorrow and pain. It is to us, as we bow our heads in prayer and contemplation, to embrace hope and promise rising up out of the ashes. As Reynolds Price wrote in Letter to a Man in a Fire:

Poets more ancient than Aeschylus have hymned the awful paradox that humankind can apparently only advance through suffering; but no one has cut that paradox in deeper letters than Aeschylus—“It is God’s law that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
Our community shares in this paradox in that all too often it takes sorrow to provoke change. The entire advocacy, collision of statistics and evidence arguments are tossed on the garbage heap of agendas as we come together in solidarity (sadly, a rare moment) of mourning with a renewed commitment to act rather than debate.

But as Aeschylus notes, we must learn, despite our cultural predication, not to allow history to rear its ugly head in repetition. We should not wait for the next horror to act. It should not be over despair that we find common ground and the motivation to set aside constituency and particular interests for the sake of the greater good.

A child will meet with our chief legislator and I pray that it is the adult who follows, for it is the call of great leaders to be willing to be led often by the ‘least of them.’ In our case, the least of these are our children who are rarely asked for their opinion while we the adults argue and shape policy around them.

The past is our seer. If we ignore the wisdom in the foresight then our future will continue to be marred by the circumstances of our current awfulness—it is the price we pay.

The lesson goes well beyond skaters and kids on bikes. It is the young ladies who roam our streets filled with anger and hate just looking for the oppportunity to express it. The proliferation of youth involved in gangs throughout the city and the alarming recruitment of younger children who just may find themselves in the cross fire of a rivalry. It is the growing number of homeless young ones in the face of a turbulent economy and the disenfranchised little boys and girls of fractured families who find another 'family' in the lair of  those who exploit them.

If change is to have a cost then let it not be 'drop by drop upon the heart' at yet another prayer vigil. Let it be born through the legislator who will toss his or her stipend into the donation cup for a new park. From the city worker who will forsake overtime pay to help pay for equipment. To the department head who will trim his or her budget to help create a bigger recreation budget and the resident who will forsake a few hours of time for self for a few hours of volunteer time for others. To the school board member who has the courage to give up an asset because it is an investment into hope. The business owner who redefines business as a life line to our youth rather than focusing on the 'bottom line.' For the non-profit to stop competing for dwindlinig dollars and start collaborating because of dwindling opportunities for our youth.To the mayor who could embrace change rather than staying the course and the activist who could extend the hand of reconciliation rather than deepening the divide.

The burden is upon us all.


noel jones said...

Well said, Terrence. It is time to bury all hatchets to work together as a community for the greater good, and time for ALL citizens to give a little to get through these difficult times, whether that sacrifice be money, time, or political agenda.

I hope that Mayor Panto really listens to Robert Mitchell's friend in his time of grief and responds to him in their meeting with a creative solution for helping kids like him have a safe place to skate and ride bikes.

I also hope that this tragedy leads to a deeper understanding of the need for our youth to have access to parks and green space in which to hang out, exercise and socialize, and how meeting that need figures in to the overall concepts of public safety and quality of life.

Additionally, I hope that the mayor will strive to make traffic calming in the West Ward a priority in terms of public safety, as part of his "Clean and Safe" strategy. Our many intersections are, sadly, accidents waiting to happen.

g_whiz said...

Astoundingly worded, profoundly said. I often spend time thinking about similar problems. Those that fall through cracks and aren't particularly valued until something dramatic reminds. Its a scary way to look at social life; the idea that things should only change if enough people are inconvenineced by a problem, or happen to be paying attention at a given time. Its ineffectual and does little for the people already in harms way. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post a great deal.

noel jones said...

Here's a great example of citizens working together to make progress together:

Easton Skaters Stay Off the Street Club
Forum – Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

The Boys & Girls Club of Easton is hosting a Forum for “Easton Skaters Stay off the Street Club,” on Wednesday, March 24, 2010, commencing 4:00pm, at the Easton Teen Center located at 1101 Northampton Street in the West Ward of Easton, PA.

Here’s the agenda for Wednesday March 24, 2010:

Lt. John Remaley, Easton Police Department, joined by EPD Bicycle Officers Rush and Demko, want the kids to get to know them and work with the kids regarding bicycle safety and proper riding techniques for riding on the streets with traffic.

Dave Fehr, Easton Fire Department, is offering his skills to club kids by listening to their ideas and providing grass roots nuts & bolts perspective on the creation of a skateboard & BMK riding park.

Dean Young, Club Executive Director, is looking for community minded adults and teens to help the Easton Skaters Stay off the Streets Club with brainstorming ideas and positive alternatives to skating and riding on the street.

Other community leaders like Terrance Miller, president of HopeUnSeen, are encouraging young people to believe in themselves and their efforts and turn the no’s that confront them into yes!

Michael Turner, B&GCE club volunteer, has been working with kids as a basketball coach, assisting with club’s Music & Dance program, helping with the Fashion Shows and productions and taking on the role of Santa at annual parties. Turner is committed to helping the club raise support revenue for activities that keep youth positively engaged. Turner and the Allentown Motorcycle Club are planning a Motor Bike Ride bring visibility and cash in support of the B&GCE endeavors

If interested in attending and or helping with the efforts of the Easton Skaters Stay off the Street Club please contact Dean Young, Executive Director, on 610-253-5846 or email for more details.