"I Just Saw a Shooting!"
By Rob Prestowitz, UrbanPromise Executive Director
Roger burst through the doors of our lobby full of excitement. Roger, like most fifth grade boys I know, is usually full of excitement, so this didn’t draw much notice. I know Roger pretty well because he spends a lot of time in the lobby outside my office. The lobby is the unofficial penalty box for Camp Freedom kids who need to chill out and get redirected after a conversation with staff.
“Roger, how ya’ doin’?” I said casually as he stopped to get a drink of water.
“Good!” he bubbled.
“What a terrific day, huh? We finally got some spring weather.”
“Yeah!” he agreed.
“So, how’re you doing with what we talked about? Are you staying on point?” On a recent stint in the penalty box, I had invited Roger into my office for a heart to heart. I wanted to see if he was following through.
“Yeah, I’m doing good!” he said, instantly followed by “I saw a shooting!”
That’s kind of a conversation changer. It was weird how the events he had just witnessed seemed normal to him and, in fact, exhilarating. Equally weird was it did not shock me either. These things happen in the city, ten year olds see it, and we work with it.
“Hmm, tell me about it.” I said.
“We were outside my house playing after school when I heard ‘pop, pop, pop’ and saw these two dudes on my block shooting down the street. Then they started running towards whoever they were shooting at. I ran here right away. It was scary.”
The shooting was on his block. It seemed odd to me that he ran to UrbanPromise instead of running home. “Why did you run here instead of running home?” I asked.
“Because I knew it would be safe here,” he said matter-of-factly, as though the answer were obvious.
“Did you tell Miss Kristin?” Kristin Walker is his Camp Freedom Director. She has worked with Roger and his family for years. Kristin and Roger have spent a lot of time in the lobby together.
“Yes, she was the first person I told.”
Kristin and staff like her, including Vanessa Church of Camp Promise at Westminster Presbyterian Church, are the frontline in a war to save our kids. Often I think this is metaphorical – in the middle of tough environments, our programs give kids hope, support their education, and provide vision. The image of bullets flying and the prospects of a short life are all too real for our kids and families. It was amazing to me that when Roger needed safety, he ran to UrbanPromise.
Through the love of Christ, UrbanPromise is a safe place that gives kids a chance, and the kids know it. Our ability to serve these children relies on the generosity of those of us who have so much.