I was running a few errands last Saturday, and took one of my favorite traffic-avoiding detours through north Champaign. Every time I drive this route, I think of Brian, when he was younger, asking me "where are we, Mom? This is the scariest neighborhood I've ever been in." Well. Yes. It's a lower-income neighborhood, and the crime rate is higher in the surrounding blocks.
I hate the term, "bad neighborhood." It summarizes every person and every home in it. Lord knows that every "good neighborhood" isn't filled entirely with very good people. I live in a "good neighborhood." Upon moving in, a married neighbor stopped in to tell me how his wife doesn't understand him, and to suggest that we should get together sometime. (I kicked him out.) The cops come regularly to deal with domestic violence with another couple on the street, and letters are circulated in our mailboxes about attempted break-ins. There's even a rumor of an unsolved murder that occurred at the end of the street, a few years before I moved in.
I don't deny that people in these higher-crime neighborhoods don't have more to deal with. The many, many good people in the neighborhood I zoom through have to contend with badder bad-asses than philandering husbands and couples throwing coffee mugs at one another's heads. I ache for good people putting in long hours to make an honest living, and then, at the end of the day, having to double-lock doors with bars on them.
And yet, I smile when I drive through: neighbors pull up chairs on one another's porches. BBQs smoke in every driveway, and people are out. Socializing and laughing, and watching their babies. And on the particular Saturday I speak of, I slowed when I noticed these signs:
I had to drive around the park then, to see what was going on here:
As I circled the park, folks on the playground waved me over.
How could I resist? I parked and walked in, and asked "whatcha doin?" I talked mostly to one woman who in turn, introduced me to Mr. Wayne Jackson:
Mr. Jackson overcame a crack addiction 18 months ago, and has devoted his time to helping people in the community that have their own issues with the drug—or any drug, for that matter. He works with the Restoration Ministries, and the New Horizon Church, and has, on his own, started the Anti-Crack Crusade.
Seriously, overcoming a crack addiction! I don't pretend to have any idea of what that must be like; and I admitted as much as I spoke to people there: I am often teased for being so far removed from the drug world. Kids, I've never even smoked a cigarette. Advil and dirty martini's are about it for this drug-naive girl.
But I get that it makes you feel great, that it's powerful stuff, very addictive, and that it's very, very hard to overcome the stuff once you're addicted to it. I can't imagine trying to get off of something with addictive properties—hell, I can't overcome an addiction to cheese!
That said, I have profound respect for Mr. Jackson. I read that there's no medicine to help you along with this, to help ease the cravings. You're on your own, baby, which means that ultimately, it's you, you, you that has to do it all. And Wayne Jackson has not only done that, but he's getting out and trying to support others that might consider doing the same.
He didn't have to bother, you know. He could have merely tidied up his life, and gotten about it, without worrying about anyone but himself. That would have been fine; he would still be commendable.
But he didn't. He knows it's hard. And that it's easier to get through a tough day with a little support. Guidance. Conversation. Encouragement. Prayer.
And it's sometimes hard to ask for help. So he puts himself out there. He tells his story. He marches through neighborhoods, and he announces on a loudspeaker that if anyone out there just needs to talk, they should come on over. He isn't out there asking for anything. He is offering.
He, and his friends at the ACC are standing by, to throw you a rope if you need it—and they aren't going to let go.
I missed the march, but got to enjoy music and lunch with several nice people.
Here is ACC Prayer Warrior Towanda Baker, singing a song she wrote. Keeping in mind I'm recording this with a cheap camera, and that she's singing on a small playground, I'm still floored when I listen to this clip, by her fantastic voice, and this great song:
Life is so interesting. One minute I'm tooling along thinking about shopping for boots, and instead I end up meeting so many nice people trying to make a difference in the world. Amazing people.
This is one detour I'm glad I took.