I wasn't going to say anything about this incident. But I see a lesson in this...
Last Sunday (January 3, 2021) I had a wonderful conversation with a man of Hispanic descent who was in his mid-thirties I would guess. The conversation was only a couple of minutes and during that time he shared briefly how he's been a very committed Christian as long as he could remember. We agreed that made us brothers in Christ. We gave each other a little fist bump and off he went walking around the corner and out of sight.
A very few minutes after that inspiring conversation, a group of men I would guess also in their thirties was walking down the sidewalk passing my car as I parked at Kensington And Somerset. A group such as this is rather unusual to see at this location. One of the men toward the front of this group started giving me a difficult time about how I bring bananas. His conversation was verbally abusive and I was picking up the vibe that this might be turning physical. I looked at a couple people who I know and simply said I think it's time for me to leave.
As I was closing the trunk of my car with my back turned to this man I heard a loud thud. No... It was more of a pop... No. It was more of a... Well, maybe these graphic words from the vintage Batman and Robin series can clarify what I heard behind me...
I turned around and saw my new Hispanic friend holding what looked like a baseball bat-shaped board and he had just given this guy who was harassing me a tough crack against his upper back. The man had fallen part way and was starting to get up when my Hispanic brother in Christ gave him another crack across his back. I could not help but notice might and determination to defend me on his face and not anger, rage, or anything similar.
The guy went down again and immediately ran away. I knew it was time for me to leave and I got in the car.
I came back an hour later and people who had seen this and know me from what I do told me that the man who had harassed me "got the s*** beat out of him for disrespecting" me.
My immediate thought and perhaps this is somewhat selfish was:
Where were these people who defended me today when I was in fourth grade and getting beat up on a regular basis on the playground at Concord Elementary School?
More simply stated: Where were these people in their 4th grade?
It's a question that gave me pause as I reflected on the various stories I've heard of the childhoods of so many of these men and women who now call the streets of Kensington home:
- His life was perfect until 10th grade when an injury on the baseball field led to months of surgery and opioid-based painkillers to manage the physical agony of that time in his life.
- Her life was pure hell from day one and in fourth grade, her uncles started "playing with" her in ways that no uncles should ever play with their nieces.
- He watched his mother and her father die in their addiction and he knew (inaccurately) that he had little choice but to follow in their footsteps.
- Her perfect life found an emotional pain killer in a little blue packet in the days after her husband and children died in a fiery crash.
- And more...
Their stories are factual and inconceivably painful.
One thing is certain.
None of the hundreds of people who at this moment call the streets of Kensington 'home', when they were in fourth grade, had in their plan of things to become in life that of a street bound adult trapped in active substance use as part of their Substance Use Disorder.
Where were these people in 4th grade?