To the boy who threatened to shoot me last night. I’m going to stereotype you right now; and if I’m wrong, I suggest you begin to act different.
I’m going to venture to say that you were just as naïve as I was. I’m going to venture to say that we both felt numb, but that you live numb. I’m going to guess that there are times you haven’t felt safe even in your own home and that you may not have always had a supportive, welcoming environment in the times you need it most. My assumption is that you and one of your partners there have helped your mothers or grandmothers carry groceries in the house by the way you took the purse carefully off my arm. Beyond that, I’m going to assume you never had a real man show you how to treat a woman, and probably the women closest in your life you had to watch be treated badly and it broke your heart.
I’m spending the day after this event resting and receiving encouragement and prayers from friends and family who love me. I am going to go out on a limb and say that you have never experienced such wrap-around, healthy support like that in your life. I am trying to wipe away the fear that you caused in me of the night, but I am guessing you have a whole new set of your own fears knowing what you have just done. I hate to say it, but I felt safe and hopeful when the cops arrived. I hate to say that you will spend the days till your transformation looking over your shoulder and not knowing who to call when you feel in danger.
Correct me if I’m wrong about you. I would need to know, because I’m on a mission with others to alleviate these things I assume to be true about you, because that’s not okay.
I’m going to believe you didn’t want to be out there doing that just as much as I didn’t want people running up on me in my neighborhood to take my things. I’m going to believe that when I opened my own back passenger car door and yelled in at the three of you, “You’re better than that!” that your heart didn’t know what to do with it, because not many people have believed in you.
I could be wrong – maybe this was one rash decision in a streak of boredom with your friends, but if I’m right in my judgements of you, I want you to know that I’m so sorry. I am so sorry you are out running the streets at 1 AM and no one is calling you home or worrying about where you are. I’m sorry that you have gotten so closed off to people, that you could hardly look in my eye. I’m sorry you have friends that make you hold the gun. I’m sorry no one ever went out and taught you how to hold a gun and you could have killed yourself yesterday.
Did you see the prayer cards in my car? You jumped in the passenger seat. Just to your left, you’ll see that Jayshara doesn’t want to go outside in her south side neighborhood because she gets bullied. The other is a prayer request for the family of a child who really cares about them. Many others ask for prayer because they simply don’t feel safe when they go outside. Was this you 4 years ago? I’m sorry you got to the point where you thought safety was so hopeless, you would be on the opposing side.
Thank you for throwing things out of the car that you didn’t want, including my wallet of credit cards, my Bible, Spanish journal and favorite perfume. I’m shocked you didn’t like my cubs hat and returned that. I don’t blame you for holding on to that sweater. I hope you treasure my car as much as I do; but if I’m also right about you – you don’t know what it is to treasure too many things, because so much has been taken from you.
It’s really not your fault. It’s probably not your parents fault either. It’s a big cycle of hopelessness and lack of opportunity, and when I identify your face, I’ll suggest that you don’t get tried as an adult and spend ten years in prison like my friend did for doing the same thing that you did when he was 14.
I’ll suggest a slew of programs to you and invite you to my house for dinner, and then we can really get to know each other and find a better way. That wasn’t you out there.
If I could give you a letter when you’re not locked up, I would tell you this.
You’re better than this and you’re meant to be a leader for your community. Instead, you’re tearing it down. Please recognize the pain you’re causing people. Please see that you’re sparking fear and distrust where we need it most. Please know you’re destined for leadership and destiny, and you are braver than most people I know. You’re far braver than the lady I asked to borrow her phone right after you robbed me and her response was, “You’re not going to run away down the street with it are you?”
I mean, you might do that to her – but you also approach people very differently. You run up on them with your friends and a gun in your hand.
Do you know why I didn’t run? I refuse to believe that you are who the papers tell me you are. I refuse to believe that you, teenage boy in a red hoodie, fresh cut hair and a soft face, would truly run up to me and do what you just did.
I refuse to flinch when I see a young black man; because I don’t want to live from a mindset created by the news. I still won’t flinch around a disarmed, disarming person going on their way; but I guess you’ve taught me that running towards someone with friends is a definite red flag screaming “Judge me as a criminal now”.
So in conclusion, I’m sorry, because unless you transform your life and relationships through Christ’s help, you will live under the identity of last night for the rest of your life. Car thief, armed robber, felon, juvenile delinquent. These are all nasty words that will stick for you, and I will still be a girl who got her car stolen and soon I will forget last night, but I will never forget you.
I’m ready to change the story when you are. I’m ready to help less people run from you when you don’t deserve it. I’m ready to see more people invest in you, when you don’t deserve it. And I pray for wisdom and a filling of the Holy Spirit – so that when we meet again, I may truly be able to give you something that’s of worth that your heart has wanted all along – hope and a Savior and knowing who you are.
Related Post: Perspectives on a Juvenile Criminal
End note: I am fine and my car is found. I am processing and resting and thankful for God’s protection and great friends. This post is not meant to inspire sympathy for me, but rather empathy for our youth. “The hardest challenge these days,” the officer told me.