As the sirens wailed down the street, Tonya trembled. She actually became physically sick to her stomach with fear and worry. In this neighborhood, the sirens could only mean one thing. Would it be one of her children that the ambulance was picking up? She felt as if she was suffocating and could not get enough oxygen. Sweat poured down her flushed red face as the worry and fear took hold.
Tonya had attempted to be a good mother and provider. She had done the best that she could do as a single parent, but, somehow, somewhere, her best had not been enough. Both her boys, Jarrod, fourteen and Michel, sixteen had become involved in the gang, and there was no way she could get them out. She had thought about, no dreamed about moving out of this neighborhood, into a better one, however, realistically, she could not afford to. It took every meager penny she could scrape up just to put this roof over their heads. From the time their father left, she had worked long, hard hours just to put food on the table for her children. Many times, she went hungry herself, just so that her children could eat. She had no car, and bus transportation was just another luxury she could not afford, so regardless of the weather, she walked to and home from work. She was often exhausted from work, with little time or energy for her family. But, she did the best that she could.
Her boys now, scoffed at her and her paltry wages. They could make ten times as much as her week’s salary in one hour. Why go to school and get an education when the money was flowing now. Besides, they tried to explain, once someone got into the gang, there was only one way out-death. How, could her young children become so callous and hardened? She asked herself this question over and over again. What had she done wrong? Often times, they became angry at her, because she would not allow them to buy things for her. “Blood money” was what she called it and she wanted no part of it.
Stomach tied into knots and her heart beating violently, Tonya began to pace the floors as she cried and prayed. “Oh God, please don’t let it be my children tonight. Please bring them home safely.” Even though she kept repeating this prayer over and over, her mother instincts told her heart that this prayer would not be answered tonight-that it was too late.
She felt the presence at the door, before she heard the knock. When she opened the door and saw the police officer standing at the door, she crumpled to the floor in a heap of tears. From a distance, she heard a voice echo, “I’m sorry madam, but we need you to identify two bodies.”
Sadly, even though this scenario is not an actual fact, the reality is that too many families face a similar scene. Somehow, somewhere, we have lost our children to the gangs. We shake our heads at them and even tremble in fear from our own young children. It is a rising problem for all of society. Personally, I believe that it is a problem that affects every person, whether it is their child or not. Along with the gangs comes the drugs and terrible violence. Somehow, we must find the ability and strength to take our children back, to free them and ourselves from this lifestyle. But, that also means, becoming involved. Maybe it means getting to know our neighbors and forming neighborhood watches or providing other outlets and community programs for our youth, to keep them off the streets. Maybe it means our churches need to become more involved with the youth, encouraging them. Maybe it is becoming involved in the big sister or big brother programs, to give the children company and adult guidance. Most of these children have lost all hope in life; we need to give them something to hope for.
Kathleen Ann Shelton
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