Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anti-Crack Crusade

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 drugor 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.


  1. Loved that detour you took. I feel like I am a bit more open to driving through areas where I might not have gone before!

  2. StFarmer6:32 PM


    Another great post. You never know where you'll run into the nicest people.

  3. Love that t-shirt! I want one!

  4. That's so awesome. If you weren't so open to people and stories, you may have never stopped. We're lucky you did. Thanks. This was very uplifting.

  5. We were talking about "bad neighborhoods" with Timber about the same time you were making this detour, I think. I may borrow the term "badder bad-asses" next time. And oh how I want to be you when I grow up. Just for the record.

  6. The MS-13's own the turf where I live. The "looks bad" area is about 3 blocks from here, 6 blocks if you are in a car, but my address is claimed turf.

    Thanks for the compliment about my blog. I'll try to keep it entertaining.

  7. Wonderful post today/ That guy should be given a medal. I have seen first hand what crack can do to someone. My brother tried it and on that day his whole life changed and it will never be the same. He is still adicted 8 years later and is in and out of rehab. He loves crack more than his family and life itself. He has lost everything and I am amazed he is still alive.

  8. Here's to Wayne and his crusade. And to the serendipity that brought you to him and then brought his story to us.

  9. Inspirational post. Kudos to you for having taken that detour and more so for having stopped to check out the happenings.

    The 'bad neighborhood' irony reminds me of that movie ( now, cant recall which one) where the car of this guy breaks down and disrupts a volleyball game in a neighborhood involving big-rough looking men. When they approach the car with iron tools, the guy shivers in fear and flees. The next dialogue from one of those rough men, makes you smile - "Hey, why you running? We'll help you fix the car!"

    Goodness and humble hearts exist in all neighborhoods. It just takes one to identify another, I guess.


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