Well, another crazy experience has been added to my life today. Quite literally, cliche or not, I am blessed to be sitting here typing this now.
This afternoon, my wife and I were over on the west side of Chicago, in the neighborhood where we often volunteer and in which we coach a youth baseball team as a part of Breakthrough Urban Ministries. As we were standing on the sidewalk, we were approached by two young men who had gotten out of a car that had just pulled up. Our own parked car was unreachable across the street. A third man, the driver (and the apparent older ringleader) waited in the car. The two boys headed straight for me, with the one reaching under his sweatshirt as he approached. Luckily, my wife began walking away immediately and was a good distance away by the time they came up near me and pulled a gun and pointed it at my stomach. It was quickly apparent they did not just want to sell me drugs.
I don't really remember what I said or what they did, but they wanted my valuables it was obvious. I guess I protested some and they reinforced that if I didn't give them what they wanted they "would shoot." My wife said that at the same time the man in the car was yelling them to "Go after the girl" instead, as he became frustrated at them not quickly getting my wallet. Nonetheless, the only safe option was to acquiesce to their demands, and in a blink, my wallet was out of my hand and on its way back to the car, only after I was walloped upside my head. They drove away quickly while we were left unable to make out their obscured license plate.
Gone were all credit cards, my bank card, license, and cash. The all-too-real taste of the neighborhood's troubles was left for us to attempt to digest. Police report filed, legs quivering, head aching, reality began to sink in. Beyond the incredible annoyance that replacing everything would be, the harsh reality of the wrongs in our world bore heavily down upon us. The need these kids felt to fund their lives this way, the poverty surrounding the moment, the emotional chaos we quickly ran through, these all served to jar us. Here were a couple kids so similar yet so different from so many others we've sought to build into over the last four years there. Yet, it was as if we were a world apart. Here we were, an easy mark, and obviously thought of as strangers who were not valued. If only I had the chance to sit an hour in the same room on an even playing field and share the stories of where we came from; would opening windows into our lives have bridged a gap that made a desperate act possible?
The world is real, but so is eternity. We are blessed to draw each breath we do, and "Blessed be the name of the Lord" as we continue to go about our lives. Tonight, we are fortunate and thankful, and what the future may bring seems only as close as what the past has wrought. Seeds of change can grow slowly, but oh, that they are.