This week, while sitting in my home office doing work, I heard a gun shot pop right outside my window. I told my wife to get down on the ground with our baby because a very large percentage of gun violence happens from stray bullets hitting innocent bystanders.
In our neighborhood, gunshots are a weekly happening, but this was the closest one I had heard to our house, and the first to happen in the middle of the day, so I was rattled. I slowly peered through the cracked blinds and saw a man walking down the street towards my house, waving a pistol. There was a car squealing away, and two other people (one man, one woman) with guns on their hips moving with the other man toward the car (and our house).
I didn’t know exactly what to think, so I told Tori to stay on the ground while I called 911. As the police were on their way, I looked out the window again to see the man talking with a very bold neighbor of mine who confronted the man while his gun was still in his hand. Whatever the neighbor said caused the man to at least put his gun back in his holster. That emboldened me enough to walk out and find out what happened.
As it turns out, these 3 laser-sighted pistol packing people were contracted to “flip” the house two down from me. A woman who had lived there 20 years lost her battle with poverty, and her home. They were there to fix it up, so the bank could get some money back. Apparently, this company sends its employees to neighborhoods like ours with “conceal and carry” guns strapped to them for “protection.”
In this instance, while they were in the house, someone was trying to steal the generator off their trailer. That’s when the foreman went out and fired a warning shot at the thief. He and his partner drove off before getting the generator.
As the man explained this to me, a few of my neighbors, and the police officer I was dumbstruck. He didn’t even bother to yell at the guy to try and scare him off. His first reaction was to shoot his gun towards the street, not knowing whether the man or the driver were armed and would be provoked to shoot back. Had that happened, their would have been a firefight between 5 people two houses down from me over a generator. Who knows how many people would have been hurt or killed.
What’s more, these guys will be working on the house for the next month or so. That means that if someone wants to retaliate, my wife will likely be right next door with our baby. Not very excited about that idea. Who would be?
Before the gunman shared his story, the officer took his gun from him. I thought that meant this guy was going to get into some kind of trouble for firing a gun at an unarmed person in a residential urban area…I was wrong. Within 5 minutes, his gun was returned to him, and the cops left. They didn’t even want to stick around to hear my complaint about the situation. I guess, what can they do. He’s within his legal rights in this state to bring his gun into my neighborhood and fire it at someone attempting to steal his property, even if the suspected thief is unarmed. That’s what we decided…I guess.
As I’ve reflected on the event the past few days, so many thoughts and feelings come to me. One of the first being anger. Anger that it’s illegal for me to keep chickens in my backyard as a source of fresh, healthy eggs, but it’s completely legal, and basically encouraged for these workers to shoot their bullets at the ground. How backwards is it that Dekalb County is more scared of chicken poop hitting that soil, than 9 mm bullets? The manure will rot, and turn to beautiful, soil-building food which can potentially yield abundance for billions of creatures, including me. The bullet will remain in the ground for centuries leaching its toxins of lead and gun powder. Not to mention how it will poison the heart with violence and fear.
As an urban gardener privileged to tend the earth, flora, and fauna each day, I am daily washed clean of the fear and violence that the urban environment can breed. As I connect with nature, I realize that although nature is violent, it is a very different violence from the kind we humans inflict on each other. Nature’s violence brings greater life. Death, in nature, brings abundance and stronger interconnectivity between organisms as yields increase. Man’s violence creates chasms, indifference, and ultimately divides us. We must learn the difference, and it is from the created order that we will.
This is not a post about gun control. What I am addressing goes so much deeper than guns. What I’m really talking about is trust. We don’t trust chickens. We don’t understand what the dangers are, so we ban them. We don’t trust guys trying to steal our stuff. To be fair, I don’t trust guys firing guns in my neighborhood. But, what if we did trust? What if the man with the gun trusted the guy trying to steal his generator on some kind of a deeper level? It would probably be foolish to trust that he won’t steal it, because obviously, he was desperate enough to try to. But what if he trusted that although the thief was doing something wrong, that didn’t make him a bad guy? What if he yelled that at him instead of shooting at him? What if I was sitting quietly at my desk, and I heard a booming voice yell out, “You were created for so much more than rob people! I know you’re desperate and think you need my generator, but let’s talk through ways that we can help you come out of whatever hole you’re in.”
If I heard that, I would have been so bewildered and encouraged by what I heard, I wouldn’t have walked out my door afraid I could be shot. I would have walked outside to shake that guy’s hand and bear witness to a beautiful moment. Maybe the thief still would’ve sped away, but I would’ve spent 15 minutes talking to the large red-bearded sage that showed great love. I would’ve thanked him, and been glad that a man like that was working next door. I would’ve encouraged my wife to say hi to him throughout the weeks while he worked, and maybe bring them some food or something cold to drink.
The point is that trust sows trust. We can never fully trust people, or nature, chickens, or even God. There are profound mysteries to all of these things that will catch us off-guard, and bring pain to our lives. However, through trusting we can heal. This is the power of the Kingdom of God. Not that we won’t feel pain or have reasons to fear, but that there will be healing and peace that passes understanding.
But people, at the very least, just let me keep some friggin’ chickens.