The Weight | Sojourners

The Weight

Does anybody else feel this weight?

I woke up this morning in tears. I don’t know why today is different, but I do know the weight is for my brothers and sisters who are in pain.

I imagined what the night was like for folks in my neighborhood who had to fend off threats last night.

I imagine the young girl in a car — against her will or against her first choice — with the guy named John, and I lament for her soul.

I imagine the young guy standing out all night selling death so he can have a little life — whether it’s in the form of food, dignity or just to feel like he is meeting some need, somehow.

I imagine the mom lying in the bed next to someone she would rather not touch, but because he pays the bills for her kids to eat and sleep, she puts up with his abuse and doesn’t say anything about the other woman he also lies with around the corner.

I imagine the young man who is not preparing for school Monday morning,  but instead for a courtroom where he will meet the judge who will sentence his soul and shackle his spirit.

There will be no friendly teacher to meet him. The teacher he will meet will be a stranger in a jail cell who will show him the ways of death. And he will descend deeper into the abyss.

I think of places around the world where a simple cup of water is still a dream.

My soul fills with sorrow imagining children out on the streets because both parents have been lost to AIDS and the predators who will scoop these children up and sell them to filthy men whose souls are damaged.

I think of the parents who sell one of their daughters into the sex trade to feed her other siblings and themselves.

Then there is the person who starts their alcoholic binge as the sun comes up to dull the pain of living through a dead end day that ends in oblivion.   

These weights of pain, neglect, hunger, thirst, and survival — do you feel them, too? Do you feel the heaviness?

I draw your attention today to something more important than chicken sandwiches and people kissing in a restaurant. A few months ago a as he walked to the corner store, a young man was beaten to a pulp on a corner about a mile from where I live. The corner is notorious and one of the toughest places in our city.

The guys who decided — in broad daylight — to kick in the face of a young man on that corner in that neighborhood didn’t care who saw them.

That corner in that place needs people of good will to go sit there and make their presence known.

That corner in that neighborhood needs good neighbors to connect with other good people in order to reclaim that corner.

That corner is not alone: there are many like it in neighborhoods all over our nation and throughout our world.

Protest the darkness there!  

In fact, why aren’t there many chicken restaurants in neighborhoods like this? Why aren’t these wonderful shining examples of Christianity and life lining up to alleviate the suffering in these places?

If we want to make statements, these would seem like the places to start making them. Jobs, healthy food, and resources to underserved neighbors seem like a worthy causes to support with our feet and our voices.

Why are the vast majority of these “Christian” chicken restaurants found mostly in upper-income malls and neighborhoods?

Does anybody else feel this weight?

Leroy Barber is president of Mission Year, a national urban initiative introducing 18- to 29-year-olds to missional and communal living in city centers for one year of their lives. He is also the pastor of Community Fellowships Church in Atlanta, Georgia and author of New Neighbor.

Image: Lakis Fourouklas/Shutterstock.