Coming out of the gate this morning, I was struck by a jarring thought that reconnected me with my current reality. I live in a dangerous community. Well, at least, my idea of dangerous where a few months back three men were gunned down in a street parrallel to ours. I've heard of mugging stories as well and some other petty crimes.
I guess living in the midst of that reality has made me oblivious to it. Anything that comes close to acceptable reality becomes ordinary. Something that I come to live with everyday.
This morning was no different from the previous days, weeks, months, and years. Except for one thing. As soon as I closed the gate and prepared to walk the alley going to the main street, I saw a group of kids blocking my way. It took me seconds to pick up the telltale signs of trouble.
My senses are hone to smell trouble if I set my mind to it. And this morning, there really was trouble. There was momentary relief when I quickly assessed the situation and noted that at least, it was not directed to me. I was just a wary witness, standing in the periphery of whatever was unfolding. But that didn't mean I was safe either.
The kids were blocking the entire alley so my choices were narrowed to three. 1) I could scurry like a scared rat back inside the safety of the house, 2) I could brave it out and walk through the trouble, 3) I could wait it out and hope that they finish their business.
I didn't know what made me choose number three but that was what I did. I'm not sure if I was even thinking then. In retrospect, what I did was stupid. I could have hurt myself in the process. But I was transfixed with what I saw. These were kids fighting like gang men in the middle of an alley. Four boys against one. They were throwing rocks to another boy who was alone not ten feet away from them. I was at the back of the four boys.
The boys looked young to me, maybe between 7-10 years old. Or possibly they were just malnourished so they looked that young to me. But still, young is young. It's an age for social play and learning good manners and right conduct. Instead, they were there fighting like goons and nobody was doing anything about it.
Solo kid was feisty and was retaliating. He was throwing rocks to his adversaries. The boys were really at it. Choosing the biggest rocks, some the size of my fist others even bigger. They had access to their chosen ammunitions because of some waterworks repairs or something going on streching down the road. Rocks flew back and forth like I imagine snowballs would on a snowy Christmas day.
I was surprised nobody got hurt. The four boys suddenly stopped and looked behind - past where I was standing. Four sets of eyes locked to another child, this one older, maybe 12 or 15 and ran to him. Older kid said something and they left. I guessed he must be a gang leader of sorts. Someone who commands respect from those boys.
The alley was passable again and I slowly walked on. All the while the while I felt a tingling at the back of my head. It was as if I was waiting for a rock to fall on my head. I caught myself wondering just how much blood would there be if that happens.
My heart went out to those kids. I wondered what kind of future they'd have living on the edge of danger everyday. Ultimately, it would be their choice. But I felt sad for the world that didn't have much to give as choices to children like them.
Not caring sucks. It feels like it's draining my humanity slowly that I hardly acknowledge the gaping wounds I see everyday.