Close to Home

It had been a particularly hectic day at the Sojourners office, and that evening my husband, Jim, and I were enjoying the simple comfort of our apartment and some conversation to the quiet background music of Anita Baker. The peaceful interlude was rudely interrupted by a squeal of tires outside, a crash of metal, and the sounds of a car racing away.

Before long, a young Salvadoran came out of the apartment building across the street to survey the damage to his small parked car. A huge dent ran along one side, and the door on the driver's side would not open. As his friends came out and gathered around, Jim went out to see what he could do.

"Have you called the police?" he asked. The young Salvadoran immediately said, "No police, no police!" When Jim expressed his regret about the senseless damage, the young man said sadly, "It's OK." There was no recourse for a young man labeled "illegal" in a city whose police department is overwhelmed with more urgent problems to solve.

He was luckier than a car owner a block away on Euclid Street. One night the previous week, someone opened fire with an automatic weapon on his car, reducing its windows to a pile of shattered glass. More senseless damage on streets that have become increasingly mean.

It is the first week of March as I write this, and already this year our city has experienced 100 murders--more than one a day. We are left with poignant images from the 11 o'clock news: hospital emergency room personnel beside themselves with despair and exhaustion; smiling snapshots of now-dead children; a mother wailing, "He was my baby," as another body is wheeled away; children unable to grasp the loss of their friends.

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