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Is it easier to push a sitting elephant up from behind or pull him up by his trunk?

Sunday, April 23, 2017


May I quote some drama please?  

"Dallas is the unfortunate owner of two of the Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods, according to a recently released study of FBI crime statistics.  Route 352 at Scyene Road broke Dallas into the Top 10 with a No. 9 showing.  Not far behind at No. 12, 2nd Avenue and Hatcher Street.

The study ranked the danger in a neighborhood by calculating the number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents in a census tract. Dallas' top showing was bested only by crime-riddled corridors in Cincinnati, Miami, Kansas City, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Memphis and Chicago -- the latter of which had four neighborhoods represented in the Top 25."

And why on earth would I include a statistic like this on my little faith and family blog?  Because we all know I get my news from Facebook and this past week this little gem was all over the place reminding me of none other than..... Home Sweet Home.  

Y'all, I grew up right in the heart of Crime Statistic #9, at the intersections of Scyene Road and Jim Miller in Southeast Dallas.  The Grove, those of us who lived there would say, though there's always arguments for and against that depending on who's giving the answer.  
And yes, this week's particular set of crime statistics are a bit past my time in the neighborhood, but if we could step back a few years and look around, you may find similarities all the same.  

And a little disclaimer - I no longer live in the 75227, but did from birth through even much of my young adult years.  Longer than I ever intended, yes - for a variety of reasons.  Depression played a part.  Unemployment played a part.  Wanting to spend as much of her remaining time together - talking about my sister here - that definitely played a part.  Circumstance contributed.  But mostly a long list of pathetic family dynamics put me in a place I never thought I would be after getting away and getting an education.  

Is it easier to push a sitting elephant up from behind or pull him up by his trunk?  Excellent question, Kristi - and one so well spoken, I can hear you saying about now.  Y'all, I just tend to think that once a person is down, ain't a whole lot gonna get her back up without either a giant push or a big ol' pull - whichever direction is most effective.    My giant push was named Fireman Dave - and he has been a huge force in keeping me on a productive and loving path for most of my adult life.  

Y'all, the draw of the negative is huge.  And if you've never felt it, much less lived it, I hope you never have to.  But I hope some of the things I share here may help you recognize it in others and become the giant push for someone that needs you. 

I also think the fact that I was one of the ones who was able to leave for higher ground was in and of itself, a miracle of opportunity.  And had it not been for that window of time in between periods of chaos, I may have never ended up where I am today.  I'll tell you that story some day.  



So Neighborhood #9 - I thought it was beautiful back then.  And call me crazy, but I find myself driving home for a tour anytime I'm down that way.  I loved the big yards and the giant, tall white rock hills that made up the area.  My front yard was a pretty good slope, perfect for play time on icy days but dangerous for those of us with a tendency to fall down unexpectedly.  My back yard was mostly a tall, steep white rock hill, dotted with trees that made for a great speed deterrent as we would run down it toward the house.  I remember that we could watch the fireworks at Fair Park from my backyard.  And I had the sweetest soccer playing dog named Fluffy.  

All the houses were built in the 1940's and 50's.  Very classic, and if you were to drive down there today you would find the same houses, but with a Mexican flair.  I watched that neighborhood go from a racial mix of - no, racially segregated sections of white families, and sections of black families.  Then within those sections, subdivisions of streets housing the white families that owned their homes and had fathers who worked a manufacturing, trade or desk job, and moms that stayed home.  Other entire streets were always and forever rental duplexes made up of the unemployed, underemployed and other mysterious types.  We were taught not to go over there.  We also never used the park which was about two blocks away.  In the last years my family was there the entire area had become almost entirely Spanish speaking.  

Growing up there were lots of kids in the neighborhood,and I will be very vague in this writing as I know several who visit me on the blog.  Two doors down from me - those two boys have some pretty good criminal records that started right after our hide and seek and and trampoline jumping years.  Two friends lost a parent to violent crime.  And a couple of the others that I knew fairly well just lost their way. 

My best friend in middle school was sexually assaulted in the hallway during the school day while working her job as the Attendance Office helper.  The general rule of middle school in those days was not to go to the bathroom.  At all.  But if you did, don't go alone.  

The Dallas Police had a large presence on our middle school campus back in the day.  Before the days when all schools had their own School Resource Officers, our school had the race riot police there more times than I can count because of potential violence that had been threatened for after school.  Lord, Y'all.  I just wanted to get home to my homework and my after school TV specials.  

One day, I think I was in high school... I was home alone.  And out of nowhere the Dallas SWAT Team was running through my side yard, scaling the chain link fence and running up our back yard hill.  I never found out why.  I just made sure the burglar bars were locked and went back to my own thing.  How weird is that?  Not the SWAT team part - but the part where they give me a look of, We've got all this under control, through my bedroom window  - and I returned to doing sit ups or whatever.  I was totally obsessed with being skinny back in the day.  Man, had it just been a few years later I could've had a cameo on the Dallas SWAT TV show - I may have become a reality star.  

I also have a couple of really good drive by shooting stories  - targeting the house across the street, the same house that when I was in high school was home to a hard drinking motorcycle gang.  And did I mention that I was mauled by a dog when I was about 6 or 7?  Not bitten.  Mauled.  By a bull dog in a neighbor's yard, and finally in what my memory seems like a lifetime, rescued by a teenage boy who got the dog off me and threw it across the yard as an adult came running to get me.  

I guess the short version of life growing up would be to say that I came out of there with a messed up family, and more memories than I can possibly digest in a short period of time.  My primary reason for blogging, I think.  But the truest version of the story is that the story is too long to tell in a blog post.  And for every bad thing, there were twice as many good.  I think that's a fair ending to almost any story, actually. 

But even though I can tell story after story of the neighborhood, the house, the people in and around, I think it bothered the heck out of me this week to see it all ranked on a scale of bad to worse.  Was I surprised to find out that we only got to #9 on the list?  Or was I mad that people only see the bad stuff and didn't take into consideration so much wonderful that could've totally changed those crime reports?   

I don't know.  I know I've had dream after dream that either starts or ends at my childhood home.  Sometimes it looks like my house.  Sometimes it doesn't.  But I always recognize it by the feeling.  Sometimes I'm trying to get away, sometimes I'm so drawn to it and want with everything to get back to see what all the fuss was ever about.  

I'll tell you this though.  We can read every statistic out there to make decisions about areas and homes and schools and the like.  But none of those statistics can account for feeling.  There's no way to total the number of lessons learned over a period of time, lessons learned just by being in a particular time and space, and taking it all in.  And that, all by itself, makes a promise to me that we are not the people we came from.  We are not the place we came from. And we never have to be what any person or place says we have to be.  

I think we all turn out to be who we are because of a mix of chance, circumstance, and opportunity.  All of these things being in differing proportions for each of us.  Our choices make or break us.  I'm proof if there ever was any.  And don't forget a bucket load of grace.  I think that's the biggest piece of my story out of all of them.

And I don't want to forget to mention that factoring into our choices and circumstances are the people that we allow to influence us.  

I'm thankful every day for all the people who invested in me over the years.  Be that for a moment or a season.  I know who they are.  And if this post reaches you, I hope you know that you made a big difference in me.  

post script - Some of the people that influenced me?  I happen to still be mad at a few of them.  I can't lie about that part.  But without each and every one of them, where might I be?  

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