There is a picture of a dead child on the front page of the Times-Picayune today. A little girl is lying in a pool of blood on her front porch as a man leans over her, holding her head. He looks at the camera with utter disbelief in his eyes.
Looking at this photograph, I can see a question in the man’s eyes: why? Why is a seven year old child gunned down at a birthday party? Why would anyone feel so angry that he or she would need to shoot a gun at a birthday party? Why doesn’t anyone do anything?
The picture is powerful and disturbing. I am sure someone will be going for a Pulitzer Prize with that photograph, but there is still a man crouched on his front porch over a dying child. I suppose I should thank the photographer for actually putting the image out so that we could see what we ignore every day at 5, 6, and 10 PM on the news.
My beloved city is under attack. New Orleans is in crisis. Children are being gunned down every day, and sometimes multiple children are being killed every day. In a place where life is celebrated, life is also cheap.
Our marvelously made human form, our intellect and creativity, our emotions are worth nothing. Our place in the community, our place in our families means nothing to a bullet. This beautiful little girl with pigtails is just another statistic.
New Orleans is under siege. We are besieged by indifference and hopelessness. We are going to lose our city if we do not fight for New Orleans. We might even lose our souls.
Unfortunately, our enemy is cunning, and its resolve might currently be greater than our own. The enemy for years has taught us that if crime/ bad government/ lousy schools are not in my neighborhood than it is not my problem. The enemy has taught us that I am not my brother’s keeper. The enemy has taught us not to ask who our neighbor is. The enemy tells us that this is just the way it is in New Orleans, that we cannot change anything. Why even try?
The battle seems impossible. We are fighting generations and generations of this indifference. We are fighting our very ethics that tell us we should value doing nothing. What could we possibly do? Where do we start?
Perhaps we start with actually looking at the picture of a dying child. She is not all that much older than my own child, the same age as my nephews. While the picture offends me, the picture also convicts me. How has our indifference, my own indifference, contributed to a culture that does not value life and the life of a seven year old girl? How might our indifference led to the assumption that life is cheap? What will I do to honor that girl’s life? What might I do to honor life and foster an ethic of life?
Perhaps one small step might be to support those on the front line of this battle for the soul of the City of New Orleans. At St. Anna’s Episcopal Church on Esplanade Avenue they list the names of the fallen on a board outside the church for all to see as they pass. They take flowers to the families. They also reach out to children with their many programs. They are not alone in the battle.
Many other groups are fighting as well, on multiple fronts. Some groups offer food. Some groups offer tutoring. Some groups offer mediation. All are good, but perhaps the most important aspect is our conversion. We need a conversion of our hearts. We need hope.
New Orleans is not alone in this need. The battle rages all across this country and our world, both figuratively and literally. We all need hope. That hope comes from faith. We need to believe in something.
So, I ask that you would pray with me for New Orleans. Pray that we have hope. Pray that we can believe in ourselves, believe that we have value.