Okay, so this is probably something I shouldn't put on here, but we've committed to transparency, so here goes.
Someone kicked in the front doors of 3 of our houses on York Street, ones that are under construction. And they didn't really get anything of value - there isn't anything, not yet at least - no copper, no fixtures, just studs and windows and a floor and a roof. But they did ruin all 3 doors, and make a lot of repair work, and, more importantly, remind me that, just because we are working hard to do good things in the neighborhood, that doesn't mean that that work will instantly be effective, or that that even commands a modicum of respect or sanctity.
Those red clay footprints on each of the white doors reminds me of that each time I walk past, like taking me down a peg, putting me in my helpless place to a certain extent. And a small little vengeful part of me wants them locked up, the person who stooped to this deed. And I understand they have been - locked up, that is. But the majority of me knows that there were reasons for doing it, namely addiction, a reason that I can't even fathom the power of, to make people bury their lives in a deep deep hole in the service of pursuing that next high, however fleeting. I know that locking them up will do no lasting good - jail is damaging in a permanent way, to the psyche and the future after jail. Treatment and recovery is a long and hard road even when you have support, and, as I'm learning by increments, to have a criminal record is to have innumerable hurdles and barriers laid across the path of living your life ever after. It's much harder to get a job. Much harder to get an apartment. And not having an address means you can't get a drivers license. It's hard to get healthcare. You can't even vote. And on and on. And jail is expensive - tens of thousands of dollars per year - to lock someone away, to squander a life in punishment.
And so when I think about that someone with the red-clay muddied shoe that kicked open those doors in the middle of a dark night, it makes me more sad than anything, to think about the despair in that decision, and I hope that help is something we can offer. It is easy to think about it in terms of us and them, good and bad, welcome and unwelcome, in and out, but the reality is that we are all not nearly as far away from that despair as we might like to tell ourselves. And to fortify our homes and our hearts against this idea of "them" is to draw a line in the sand if only to console our souls to an absolute we may not want to question.
So the question that keeps coming up in my mind, as that footprint stares me in my mind's eye, is this: How can we help? And all I can come up with, as I'm not a social worker, drug counselor, police officer, or anything actually useful to the situation, is this: We can just keep trying. Try to set an example of hope in the face of that despair, hope in the form of opportunity, of options, of access and awareness. Opportunity in having a way to support yourself in this community - start a business, work from home, work for someone who is starting a business here. Options in housing, in transportation, in employment, in community involvement. Access to the information that is out there if you know where to look - we can show you. Awareness that your voice matters, that your opinion matters, that yours is as important as any other voice.
I did not intend for this to be preachy - that's the last thing that the person that left that footprint needs - to be preached at, in any way shape or form. I did just want to meditate on that image in my head, that disembodied footprint that symbolizes both a breach of trust and property as well as a ruddy call for us to redouble our efforts, and be grateful for both the reminder and all of the good people around us who also want to help. To err is human. To forgive, well, it's just right.