This column originally appeared on Evanston Patch. It captures some
of the heart-breaking, valuable and very real real truths of teen
violence. Most importantly, it highlights some of the ways we can start
to overcome it. Please add your thoughts in the comments.
By Christine Wolf
I just received a Facebook message from someone working with a group called Leadership Evanston.
Do you have 30-45 minutes to discuss what you’ve learned from your involvement in the community with the topic of Youth Violence?
While I’ll do my best to make time and share my perspective, I’m oddly fixated on that 30-45 minute window – hardly enough time to scratch the surface.
Therefore, this column serves as my “working draft” — a way to prepare for the meeting and organize my flood of thoughts (and please add yours in the comments section).
By way of background, here are some of my previous columns on youth violence in Evanston:
Who are you?
A mother whose children haven’t been shot…yet.
What motivates you?
The need to erase the last word from that description.
What have you learned as you’ve gotten more involved with Youth Violence issues?
–That I’m sorry I only truly opened my eyes to the problem once it happened to a child who could have easily been my own.
–That candlelight vigils happen to real people in real towns with real tears. They aren’t just on the 10 o’clock news.
–That it’s more than just discussion around kids killing kids. Difficult conversations are required and often include topics like race, politics, education, blame, pride, money, education, opportunity, resentment, fear, suspicion, governance, motivation, and — most thankfully — hope.
–That there is far more good in the world than evil.
–That too few people understand Restorative Justice. Community members, victims and their offenders sit together to share their perspectives. It’s about listening to and addressing the real issues affecting a community. The victim has a chance to be heard, the offender addresses what drove his/her actions, and the community gains perspective on the challenges requiring its attention.
–That patience, vision and strategic thinking are required, even when emotions beg for stopgap solutions.
–That I cry too often in public about this topic.
–That there are thousands of people wanting to do whatever they can to help.
–That there will always be people who hate your ideas.
–That turf wars exist not only between gangs but also between the very non-profit groups attempting to address them.
–That local politics can be just as bad – if not worse — than TV shows.
–That the number of unsung heroes in my community is staggering.
–That social media plays two roles: uniting neighbors and promoting the problem.
–That it’s easier to criticize than to mobilize.
–That things worth doing don’t come easy.
–That young people in this world are simply amazing.
–That listening is only achieved with practice and humility.
–That every day is a chance to mend a fence and make a new friend.
–That it’s better to try and fail than to sit back and judge.
–That we need to put down our phones and talk to one another.
–That a face-to-face meeting is more work to arrange but more valuable than gold.
–That our lives are filled with real and raw emotions, and kids need reminders that it’s normal to feel scared, furious, jealous, confused, embarrassed or ashamed.
–That intense feelings won’t last forever, and that kids often forget that…
–That it’s easier to keep going when you know that you’re loved, even by one person.
–That there’s so much work to do…
Want to see more of Christine’s work and learn how she became an accidental columnist? Visit www.christinewolf.com.