Wednesday, May 18, 2011

doing fine

Looking back at the last two posts, I fear I may come across as slightly more traumatized than I actually am about the shots fired and whatnot. I wanted to write about the incident the way it felt when it happened - and there were big feelings - but I noticed that the big feelings faded fairly quickly. We are doing just fine.

A couple thoughts still linger with me, tensions that have always been a part of my life in this neighborhood but thrown into greater relief after this experience.

1. Teenagers are scary kids. I have always understood that teenagers are people that most adults find a little frightening, especially when they are in groups. I've never wanted to feel that way about a group of people, and I think I have mostly focused on the kid part - they're just kids. Which is true. However, kids do dumb things (like, oh, say shooting a gun at public park at 4 in the afternoon) when given the chance. Which can be pretty scary. One of my neighbors and I were discussing this and she told me that she thinks of teenagers as being like someone who has never driven a car being given a Ferrari. "Great equipment, no idea how to use it." She said. It's the decision making skills that are scary - and around here there is more than one teenager whose life gives him(or her) no power outside of guns and violence, and no tempering parental presence to help bridge the gap between ability to act and the ability to decide. So. Maybe it's okay to temper my compassion with a little bit of wariness when it comes to the teens.

2. I still love my neighborhood, but it's complicated. (and that's okay) I am used to loving things completely and unreservedly. One of the reasons I love my neighborhood is that it makes me think. There are lots of reasons - racial and economic diversity, lots of parks, my neighbors, proximity to downtown and my work and Andrew's work, etc. It gets in the 90th percentile for walkability scores. And it makes me think. Which is related mostly to the racial diversity part. For the past seven years I have been working on and questioning my internal danger response to certain situations - a group of black teenage boys being loud, hanging out for example. If I feel uncomfortable I question that response and attempt to get curious about it. There aren't clear lines, of course. And this experience reminded me that sometimes it's okay to see danger. Sometimes it's real. So I am thinking on that, working on it.

We have talked about going to our park again, but haven't actually done it yet. We will eventually. The weather is gradually, slowly, sometimes imperceptibly getting better and we have had some great sunny days. I have two more papers to write before the end of the quarter and three more Sundays at St. Paul's before I am done working there. Things are changing, but the sun is coming out. And we're doing fine.

at the park, photo by Jenny Jimenez


  1. Glad to hear (read) you guys are doing fine.

    in response to your #1 - yes teens are scary kids. I work with adolescents ("scary" "at-risk" youth no less) and I love them, but I can admit they can be scary and their frontal cortex is not yet fully developed which lead to their not making great decisions (aka doing really really stupid and impulsive things).

    in response to your #2 I'm glad you still love your neighborhood and I hope that when you come across those things that make you think and question you have lots of opportunities to talk them through and really examine them :)

    and also, that picture: LOVE!

  2. I am a firm believer that every "type" of neighborhood has its problems. We even had a drive by shooting between some mixed race gangs in North Ballard 5 blocks from my house in a neighborhood. We have drug dealers around the corner. 2 strip clubs, a plasma donation center (mostly frequented by drug users), a sex shop, a liquor store and a medical marijuana shop are all within easy walking distance. For those of you not in Seattle, Ballard is pretty pasty white.

    But I still LOVE my neighborhood and don't want to move. It's hard not to think of teens as evil but if you focus on them just being kids with undeveloped brains (not being rude just truthful)and realize they are doing what they think they should, it can help. Most of them are fronting, trying to look tough and succeeding without realizing the consequences on how they are treated.

  3. Beautiful picture, your girl is really growing up and has a lovely look about her. I'm not sure how I would respond to the events you witnessed but I think responses to teens and perceived danger is an interesting area to reflect on. I try to question my own responses, I don't want to teach my daughter to be afraid of young men. Her cousins will be young men, her father was a young man. However, my only experience of crime, fleeting though it was, was at the hands of teen boys. I'll think on the idea of equipment and decision making, thanks for raising this.

  4. Glad you're doing well after such an experience. And very glad to hear you still love your neighborhood. And you're right sometimes seeing danger is okay.