Saturday night, our phone rang and it was my sister on the line: “Can you guys turn on the T.V. and see if they are reporting anything about our neighborhood right now?” She was calling from her van where she was parked in front of her house, with two kids and a carload of groceries behind her (and a husband who was out of town). “I want to know if it’s okay to get out and unload the car…” We had heard the helicopters overhead, but were unaware that two blocks away the intersection of Normandie and Adams was a scene of total chaos, with all manner of police vehicles and officers moving about with rifles drawn. My sister had driven past on the way to her house, and was unsure of what to do.
Doug checked the TV and I told her that actually, we were just leaving to head to the hospital because of pain and cramping in my abdomen that had persisted all afternoon. Not seeing anything on the news, we hung up with her and headed out the door.
We found out last night that there had been a drive-by shooting at the funeral of a murdered gang member which was held just down the street on Adams. Apparently, someone drove by and opened fire, killing one man and causing other attendees to draw their weapons and begin firing back. One death and a few minor injuries, a tragic addition to an already horrifying loss (the murder victim was the cousin of the man whose funeral was taking place).
At our block club meeting last night, our Senior Lead Officer reported that the increase in gang shootings was dramatic right now and that he is deeply concerned for what this summer is going to be like here.
One of the questions I was asked repeatedly by North Park students (and faculty) was how I feel about living where we do and being committed to serving here, especially with small children. I have moved past the need to give the “right” answers to this question: I experience deep conflict, real fear, and days filled with great introspection and hesitation. I trust God as our “shepherd”, but even my understanding of what that means has been shaken a bit by the events of the last couple of years. I admitted to them that urban ministry stopped being “sexy” for me long ago.
My best description for them of what the day to day can feel like here was this: when we were preparing for labor and delivery when I was pregnant with Mercy, our childbirth class instructor told the dads in particular that in every labor, there will be that point when the woman will decide, “I am done. I can’t do this anymore.” And she told the men that one technique she has found useful in many births is to say gently to the woman who, terrified of the onslaught of contractions has reached her breaking point: “Okay, let’s just do one more.” I remember totally laughing at the absurdity of this statement: anyone in their right mind knows that labor consists of HOURS of contractions, and cannot be tackled by doing “just one more.”
Well, that same instructor (our very dear friend) coached us through Mercy’s birth, and there was a point in labor when, totally overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending waves of pain, I told Doug that I couldn’t do it anymore. Amy drew near and, holding my hand, gently asked: “Erika, can you do one more?” Yes, I remember thinking. I can do one more. And what seemed absurd in class actually translated to very real and effective encouragement.
As I stood in front of Scot’s very sincere students and faced that question, I told them that story and said: “That is what my life feels like sometimes. Like it can be hard to look very far into the future; that I don’t know how we are going to educate our children or how we will sustain ourselves financially or any number of other valid and often haunting questions. But I will decide that I can ‘do one more’.” And there are days and seasons when life here feels like just that: a decision, a commitment made in the smallest increments, on what can feel like a daily basis.
Today I am deciding that I can do one more.