by Josh Punnoose
The theme for this week was relocation. Relocation describes not just moving into the city but also living intentionally within the city. This means greeting your neighbors, buying and hiring locally to support local businesses, and learning about the city’s history. While I recognize that intentionally living in the city can help the city and its residents prosper, I am reluctant to embrace this role because of the high level of sacrifice it would entail. I got a taste of the sacrifice living in the city would require when I went to a neighborhood association meeting. In this meeting, members of the community were able to voice concerns to their councilman and police lieutenant.
While the residents’ concerns ranged from the slow response of the city to their concerns about the inability to prosecute those living in vacant properties (potentially dealing drugs and creating fires), one of their major concerns was crime. They talked about how, with the lack of summer programs for teenagers, many of them began engaging in criminal activity like vandalizing property and assaulting residents. When the police arrest them, the court gives them a lesser sentence because they are juveniles. As a result, before long, they return to the streets and, because of the inability of our criminal justice system to help transition people to a life away from crime, continue doing mischief. The inability of the police to meaningfully change the behaviors of these adolescents has also reduced the authority of the police in their eyes, causing them to do their crimes in broad daylight.
As someone that is a camp counselor at a local day camp, my heart felt heavy knowing that the kids I will be spending four weeks loving and caring for have a greater chance of choosing a life of assaulting people and vandalizing homes simply because there are a lack of other opportunities for them to pursue. Additionally, I felt overwhelmed looking at all the brokenness that influenced teenagers to choose a life of crime. There’s the broken criminal justice system that fails to transition kids to a life outside of crime. There’s the lack of activities for kids in the city. There’s the brokenness of the education system to teach these kids skills to get a job and find alternative ways to make money other than crime.
I was then left with the question of whether sacrificing a life of safety and comfort for myself was worth a chance at improving the lives of those with whom I interact. Is the pain of knowing that the kids I meet may be tempted by a life of crime because of a dearth of summer opportunities greater than my desire for a self-sufficient life where I could ensure my own safety and comfort? While the answer should be yes, I don’t know if I have the faith yet that God will provide just what I need. This is something I will definitely need prayer for. What I do know is that, from my interactions with the kids at the day camp, God is at work in the city and I definitely want to be a part of this change.
by Josh Punnoose