My wife and I have a ten month old son. Like other babies, he is an absolute joy. He wakes in the morning and is laughing, giggling and a joy for anyone around him. He would most likely be starting school in several years with a girl in our neighborhood, Neriah Miller.
Maybe they would grow up to goto the same school together. Maybe they would ride the same bus and have become friends. Maybe they would sit next to each other and become friends that can look out for each other. Maybe they would have helped see a positive change in our neighborhood as the future of it.
For Neriah though, her future was cut short on August 27th 2014. Her and her mom were on their front porch and both were shot by a man who took off on foot at 6PM in broad daylight. Neriah died before she could see her second birthday. She died before she could have her first day of school pictures. She died before she could grow to become a woman. She died as a baby girl and as a reminder to our entire community of how shameful murder is.
In the days since her murder, there have been different voices calling for different things from this horrible tragedy. Some have said we need more police, others have said we need more male role models. I’ve heard some call this another Ferguson, Missouri situation(Michael Brown). While I don’t feel that this is another Ferguson situation because the crime is not by the police, I do think that regardless, this is definitely a wakeup call to a city that needs it.
Seeing the pictures of Neriah really hit home for me. I could only imagine how she is the joy in the lives of the people around her. I sat in my desk and was completely shaken by the reality that this beautiful girl was murdered down the street from me. While I don’t know exactly what our reaction should be as a community, the one thing I do know is that we must have a reaction.
In wanting to write about Neriah, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what strategy we should have as a community to bring change. But what I do know is that we have to do something. We have to come out of our houses. We have to meet our neighbors and start to unite together instead of staying so divided. And it happens one street at a time. One neighbor at a time. Building relationships and having the hope become that each street can grow closer together to look out for each other.
The greek word for ‘Community’ is Koinonia. It also translates “being a joint owner“.
Whether we like it or not, we are joint owners of our neighborhood. It is my neighborhood, not just where my home is located. Whether I like it or not, my neighbors are owners of this neighborhood as well.
So when there is tragedy, my heart should break. When a baby gets murdered in cold blood, I should be devastated. I have to begin to own this neighborhood so that it’s problems aren’t just the neighborhoods problems, they become my problems.
I once heard a pastor (Dhati Lewis) say that “it won’t be a problem until I make it my problem”.
I am in hopes that regardless, we don’t shake this off as neighbors. I hope that we see the call of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves, as a lifestyle we all should live by.
And I hope from this tragedy that we stand up and take action.