The city of Louisville–my home, dearly loved–has broken my heart this week.
I logged on to Facebook just after 9am yesterday to see the news that a man had been shot and killed on a section of I-71 that runs just a few miles from my house. Said section of interstate was shut down for hours, causing a nightmare of a traffic snarl through my neighborhood as folks strove for alternate routes to work and home and school.
Shot and killed. While driving down the highway. Less than 12 hours after three other murders-by-gun in the city. Yes. You read that correctly: 4 people shot to death in 12 hours in a city regularly hailed as one of the best cities to call home in our nation.
We’ve been living through a brutal cold snap the last two weeks here–a longer stretch of single digit temperatures than we’re used to or comfortable with, and I swear to you I haven’t been fully warm since early February.
But a few nights ago Kenny, a homeless man well known in shelters around here and on a wait list for stable housing, froze to death. Froze. To death.
And I thought I was cold….
And if you caught NPR at noon yesterday, Louisville was highlighted…for a heroin addiction epidemic.
And the number of domestic violence and child abuse cases reported around here lately…. I can’t even go there.
On the one hand, I suppose you could say that it is business as usual and headlines are headlines and we also focus on the negative because that’s what gets people to watch the evening news and stream CNN reports, right?
Except…no. This is personal. This is a rush of some of the very worst of life across a town that I love. That I live and laugh and have being in. That I know good and decent and compassionate folk doing incredibly and life-changing work in. That has been the first place I’ve really felt at home in other than my southern hometown of Winder, Georgia.
Forget the bourbon. Forget the Derby. Forget the horses and the coffee shops and the independent local restaurants and the good public schools and the world-class park system. Forget all of it.
Because none of it matters if we cannot funnel the things that are best about us into a way of being that changes the things that are worst about us.
My daughter goes to a public elementary school that is also a performing arts magnet. It is pretty incredible, this school, and last night my daughter was part of a select group of students chosen to demonstrate dances during International Delight Night at the school. Her dance instructor there is a world-class performer, mostly retired from the public stage, who has spent her life studying liturgical dance. And last night, my girl got to demonstrate liturgical dance with about a dozen other second graders. Their dance interpreted lyrics to a song that is a prayer for peace…for love…for community…for recognizing our need for each other.
Multiple skin colors. Varying nationalities. Vast expanses among those dozen or so kids in terms of socioeconomic status, religious preference, parental support and family makeup…and yet…they danced. Together. To a couple hundred parents and educators who stood transfixed at the sheer joy and possibility and hope of it all.
My daughter’s dad and I thanked her teacher when it was over, wanting her to know how much we appreciated her efforts. She was grateful, and she said, “I really do believe that we have to teach these kids that we all need each other. It’s our only hope.”
And so on the one hand, Louisville broke my heart this week.
And then her children made it whole again. Or, at least, made it hopeful, again.