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Is fighting to save neighborhoods overrun with poverty and crime really worth the effort? Can you really believe in a community where some of its residents do not value life? What do you say to a family that has lost a loved one who was on the moral side of the fight? Where is the comfort?
These thoughts ran through my head as the news anchor read the details of Thomas Wortham IV, 30 — a military officer surviving two tours of duty in Iraq, a three-year veteran of the Englewood Chicago police district and community activist — shot dead in an alleged robbery attempt supposedly stemming from a dare. It was a hideous crime where the offenders deserve no pity.
People make choices that lead them to their own fate.
There are too many crutches in impoverished neighborhoods: “I never had parents that cared enough. I got picked on in school. My family never had any money. Nobody ever promoted college. The white man keeps me down!”
As a taxpayer, I feel offended when criminals get to lay around on my tax dollars in a jail cell with rights and privileges — free meals and healthcare. And upon release, some of them remain so institutionalized or beyond help that they turn into a career criminal.
It concerns me when a mother realizes she can get money for childcare costs, more SNAP benefits (food stamps) and low-income family housing if she continues have more children. But she dare not take advantage of SEOG, Pell Grants, subsidized and unsubsidized loans for a university education or GED program.
Enough with the excuses!
Frankly, I believe that many ex-offenders, drug dealers and the single mothers with gaggles of children have it easier than someone who doesn’t lean on circumstantial vices and cannot go and sign up for benefits or get help from social service organizations.
These people thrive in mediocrity. This environment does not breed a work ethic. And anyone that displays a “conscious endeavor,” as Henry David Thoreau once wrote, is an anomaly. They are considered “lame” or “square.”
It takes guts to sometimes be the only black face in a classroom full of students who cannot identify with your circumstances. It’s hard living in a dorm seeing all of your friends’ parents come to visit, spend the whole day with them or transfer money into their bank accounts just so they won’t have to worry too much about finances.
It’s difficult being away from all of your friends, not having a support system and feeling alone. But then again, if no one around ever told you about the joy of stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting new people in spite of how you feel, then how will you ever fathom the possibilities?
It takes internal motivation to maneuver between serving country and serving community. The local newspapers emphasized Wortham’s successful return from Iraq. Some of the children he encountered got to hear stories of far off places and interesting things. Maybe a few were inspired, and maybe for Wortham, it was worth it.
Just maybe, Wortham shouldn’t be one of the few trying to motivate children to dream the impossible. I guess if his death symbolizes anything, let it stand for the need of mentors unafraid by media reports to uplift at least one child. Allow him or her to connect with the outside world.
If everyone pitches in, then the battle to take back our communities becomes less intimidating.