Friday, March 07, 2008

Righteous anger realized

A few months ago I posted an exegesis of Ephesians 4, mentioning the three different types of anger being discussed in the original Greek text. One type of anger was supposed to be nurtured and maintained: righteous anger. An instinctive reaction to injustice or wrongdoing that makes us want to improve the world. It's a powerful motivator.

Until recently I'm not sure I had ever really experienced righteous anger. Sure, I'd see something sad on TV or read an article about abuse and get angry. But it didn't stick with me very long.

Last November 28 was the one year anniversary of Julian's murder. It was also Samantha's fifth birthday, so I took Jack out in my car around 7:30 a.m. to pick up some birthday doughnuts and bring them home for a surprise breakfast treat. I noticed on the way back that there was a vigil forming near Julian's memorial by the school. I felt a twinge of something, like maybe I should stop by, but I kept driving and we enjoyed a good start to the day.

Around 8:15 I finally left the house for work, and the vigil was still going. This time I parked my car and walked over. Julian's dad was there, along with seven or eight of Julian's friends. I recognized three of them who had witnessed the shooting. I wonder what they were feeling as they stood there again?

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The corner of the shooting, as viewed from my car. Asterisk on where he was laying.

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The memorial still there more than a year later

For the next hour I talked with Julian's dad, and the conversation covered a ton of ground. This is where my righteous anger started to build, while listening to him. He's a good man, works hard, and I believe he truly wants the best for his family, so I don't want this coming off as overly critical of him. Here's a bulletpoint-style listing of the conversation points that have stuck with me:

--He was still thinking about suing the school for not keeping Julian safe, even though he wasn't shot on school grounds, and class had started 15 minutes before he was shot.
--He was still thinking about suing the city for slow EMT response, even though I supposedly missed the shooting by 15 seconds and had only just started CPR when the medics arrived.
--He said that Julian had already been caught once with a gun, and when Pops (dad's nickname) took it away Julian was caught trying to buy another one. His reason was that "he didn't feel safe" outside the school. Hello! Alarm bells, anyone?
--He said that Julian would often sneak out and have a lame excuse for why he was gone for hours. And that Julian had some trouble with gangs in the past, but that was all over.
--The day before he was shot, Julian called Pops to pick him up at school after an afternoon meeting because he "didn't feel safe" again. Pops remembered it because it was such a rare thing for Julian to call his cell phone during the day.
--He reminded me that Julian lived with his mom for a decade in another state and eventually "escaped" to Houston to live with his brothers and sisters at Pops' house. Julian was physically emaciated and emotionally scarred when he arrived, but he had steadily progressed with his health and his studies.
--He had progressed enough to start taking ownership of his life at age 17, and was scheduled to transfer to a new school in January 2007, by his own efforts and requests with the school district(!). His main reason was safety and better education, because he wanted to join the Army after high school and then go to college.

So to sum up, he had escaped an abusive childhood to finally live with his dad and siblings, only to have his multiple pleas for safety go unnoticed. When he didn't feel safe, he engineered his own transfer to a better school but was killed only weeks before the transfer date.

During this conversation one of the campus police officers came up to us and mentioned that the half-dozen students needed to get inside the school. Class was well underway. Each student had an obviously false excuse for either not having a class that period, or not even being enrolled, and the officer just said OK and left. He didn't seem to care about the kids, and he definitely knew they were lying.

I'm angry that kids can so easily slip through the system, and that the only reason slippage is possible is that one or both parents aren't paying attention. I'm angry that so many kids don't give a crap about their education and about rising above whatever baggage they've inherited. And I'm most angry about one kid who did give a crap, but will never get a chance to see what he could do with his life.

I wish I could say that this righteous anger has focused me into doing some good in my neighborhood, but so far it's just a fire without a target. I'm angry and motivated yet still clueless about what my role, if any, can be in making a difference.

After the talk with Pops, I got in my car and drove to work. A song came on the radio 30 seconds later -- "Youth of a Nation" by POD. Here's how it begins:

Last day of the rest of my life
I wish I would've known
Cause I didn't kiss my mama goodbye

I didn't tell her that I loved her and how much I care
Or thank my pops for all the talks
And all the wisdom he shared

Unaware, I just did what I always do
Everyday, the same routine
Before I skate off to school

But who knew that this day wasn't like the rest
Instead of taking a test
I took two to the chest*

Call me blind, but I didn't see it coming
Everybody was running
But I couldn't hear nothing

*Note: Julian was shot twice in the torso


MamaRose said...

WOW!!!!!!!!! Was that song FITTING & VERY 'TIMELY' for you, huh??!!!!! AND, for those kids, TODAY, TOO!!!!!

I just saw BILL COSBY on Oprah this week, talking about his NEW BOOK, with a Harvard Ph.D. & it's called: "COME ON, PEOPLE"--talking mainly to 'his'/Black folks, but also to ALL of us--about how these YOUNG BLACK YOUTHS NEED HOPE--from their PARENTS, TEACHERS, PREACHERS, AND FRIENDS!!!

AND, YOU CAN DO THAT--somehow, I KNOW that God has planted a seed in YOU, now, and given YOU this SPECIAL/awful LIFE EXPERIENCE, so that you CAN HELP these 'scared' young people!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You don't have to be black & you don't have to be THEIR parent TO HELP THEM. I'm SURE you've HELPED Julian's Dad/family & friends MORE than you KNOW, ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!

AND, IF he/they REALLY want to DO something to HELP the rest of Julian's 'good' friends, he/they CAN DO that--and, maybe WITH YOUR HELP!!!!!!!!!

You're VERY CREATIVE, Michael, and you've SEEN what they need, already, and there WILL BE A WAY YOU can work things out to HELP those kids--IF nothing else, for now, BY 'TELLING JULIAN'S STORY'!!! HE can't tell anyone, now, where/how he 'went wrong', BUT YOU CAN, 'FOR' HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm SURE every HS in HOUSTON would LOVE for you to COME & TELL IT!!!!
Maybe ALL you need to do is JUST CALL & ASK THEM if they'd like to have you come & talk about him/his life--CUT SHORT BY GANGS/the 'wrong' friends. I'd sit through it & I'm not even having those problems!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MAYBE you could even SEND them a copy of YOUR BLOG about it--that's EYE-OPENING in itself!!!!!!!!!!

I was sorry that it 'fell' on Samantha's BD, but MAYBE it was MEANT to BE ON THAT/'her' DAY--to HELP YOU NEVER FORGET IT--which I know you won't, anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!

If my suggestions don't seem 'right', for now, don't worry--YOU will GET an idea of WHAT to do that WILL MAKE PERFECT SENSE!!!!
And, that's WHEN it's FROM GOD!!!!!


Sal said...

Wow. That was incredibly sad to read. I think you've already made a difference. You helped, you're there to talk with the Father. I'm sure he appreciated having someone to talk to about it.

James W said...

I can understand your emotions. I too have had some of these same emotions. So I actually did something that I felt God had lead me to do. I helped and lead the youth department when I was up in Cameron. I really love to see the youth come to trust God and realize we can not do it on our own. The youth have so many emotions going on and is good to see some of them wanting to learn about the lord. I hope you are able to find what God wants you to do. I'll be praying for you.

Don R said...

Michael- I would say to you that God is speaking to you. There are no accidents and no coincidences. Listen,look, pay careful attention . It can come in many guises

Redlefty said...

Thanks, everybody.

Sal, glad to hear from you, man. Thanks for all you do.

Mike said...

It's amazing how a day can turn on a dime. I went back and read your gripping account.

You are to be commended for doing what you could.

MamaRose said...

Like Don R--I FEEL like God is 'speaking to you', TOO, Michael!

So, it seems like to me that you're 'READY'/revved up & just WAITING to find out WHERE you're needed & WHAT you're supposed to do, next!!!!!

Keep your EYES OPEN--which is something you're VERY GOOD at, already!!!!!!!!!

Just BE PATIENT--sometimes, that's the HARDEST part!!!!!!!!! WE LOVE YOU TO PIECES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom

MamaRose said...

Like Don R--I FEEL like God is 'speaking to you', TOO, Michael!

So, it seems like to me that you're 'READY'/revved up & just WAITING to find out WHERE you're needed & WHAT you're supposed to do, next!!!!!

Keep your EYES OPEN--which is something you're VERY GOOD at, already!!!!!!!!!

Just BE PATIENT--sometimes, that's the HARDEST part!!!!!!!!! WE LOVE YOU TO PIECES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom