Pennsylvania. Wednesday, October 11, 2017. A fifteen-year-old boy on his way home from school was shot three times in the head by three other teenagers. He missed his regular bus stop and when he got off at the next bus stop he was approached by three unknown teens brandishing guns. He attempted to run away from them but they chased him down. Each suspect shooting the young boy once in the head. The three individuals still have not been identified or apprehended.
I’m not a news reporter. But this story was shared with me yesterday by a lady from church. The victim was her nephew. We found out about the shooting the same day it happened. I didn’t know the young man. I barely know his aunt. I only recently started attending her church. But I’ve had a heavy heart ever since I heard about the death of this young man. Even as I pen these words I’m fighting back tears.
I cannot stop thinking about the ridiculous and tragic manner in which he lost his life. The fact that a young boy has been robbed of his chance to experience life. And the effect it is having on his family. This tragic event has hit home for me for several reasons.
As a former gang member, it has been a heart-wrenching reminder of the life the gospel of Jesus Christ saved me from. As I sat in his aunt’s living room yesterday and listened to her tell the story I could tell it was a gang initiation shooting before she told us. During my time running the streets, I never participated in this ritual, never supported it and never sent anyone else to participate in it. But I was well aware of it and knew of many members who both participated in it and used it as a rite of passage for new recruits. And I never said anything about it or attempted to change it or stop it.
Now I am 31 years old and this is the first time in my life I have personally met the family members of a victim taken from this world by this ridiculous ritual. It has taken me back to a place I have tried to forget and am still struggling to forgive myself for being a part of. Often times this world makes me sick to my stomach. Not the world itself, per se, but the sin in our hearts that continuously perpetuates the brokenness that contributes to tragedies like this. It makes me even sicker to think of once being a part of that cycle. I can only pray that my humble life is having some small effect in shining light into this darkness around us.
I also cannot stop thinking about the fact that this young man’s death will never end up trending on Twitter or any other social network. It will never make it into the headlines on the major news stations. Nobody will start any social justice movements in the name of this young man. Nobody will riot, rally, protest or push for new legislation because of his death. Nobody is going to rise up with an outcry against gang violence. Why? Because it won’t serve to further anyone’s selfish political agendas.
I would have never heard his story myself if it were not for his aunt being a member of the church. According to the National Gang Center, data collected in the National Youth Gang Survey from the years 2007 to 2012, showed an average of 2,000 gang-related homicides per year. What does this mean? It means that this young man’s story is not unique. For decades now thousands of people every year have lost their lives in gang-related murders. Where are their social justice warriors? Where is the national uproar over this epidemic in our country?
The lack thereof is a mere symptom of our hypocrisy and sinful hearts. It’s not just gang violence. We would live in a much different world if we, as a nation, made as much noise about everything that actually endangers the future of our youth as we do about the select few things we choose to make noise over. But not everything makes for good headlines or caters to furthering the ideologies we actually believe to be important. For the most part, we don’t genuinely care about each other and the other 7.5 billion strangers on this earth that aren’t a part of some associated circle of ours. Instead, we care much more about certain philosophies and ideologies and political agendas. So the thousands of people who are killed yearly in senseless crimes like this young man was on October 11th are never heard of.while we riot
While we are busing today rioting, rallying, protesting and arguing over crimes that have a far lower death rate or ideas that aren’t even killing people, hundreds of people across the nation will be dying as victims of senseless crimes birthed in sinful hearts. We are not doing ourselves any favors as long as we continue to fight over which band-aids to use without addressing the sickness within us.
Copyright © Lawrence Joseph Sterling 2017. All rights reserved.