A few weeks ago I rode along with a police officer for 10 hours in Over the Rhine, and from the front seat I got an interesting perspective of life.
The neighborhood’s newly renovated lofts, shops and trendy restaurants have made it a popular destination. Washington Park attracts many people, and I enjoy the tacos at Bakersfield and the vintage drinks at Japps. But the neighborhood is still plagued by prostitution, drugs, and violence north of all the positive changes.
During our shift I saw a park where transvestite prostitutes hang out, and a loading dock at an abandoned warehouse where other hookers wait. We backed up two other officers on a drug bust, and later took a heroin addict to jail after he stopped breathing at a gas station and was revived. At the Freestore Foodbank the line for a Thanksgiving distribution wrapped around the block, and at the Shell station across the street, we ran license tags on the computer. Every single person on the lot had a criminal record. One driver had outstanding warrants, which triggered a high speed chase that concluded when we pulled the car over about 10 blocks later.
In the middle of all this there are children.
At one point in the evening the officer drove to a street where ‘not even police officers like to be.’ He pointed out drug deals in process (they scattered when they saw our car) men drinking on the corner, and a young female prostitute walking out of an abandoned building. In the middle of all of this was a 10 year old girl, walking with a back pack over her shoulder. I wanted to stop the car and escort her home.
This little girl will have to overcome so many obstacles to have a life the rest of us take for granted. I had parents who took care of me and a safe neighborhood to walk to school. I didn’t dodge prostitutes or addicts shooting up in doorways to go to a friend’s house, and I always had enough to eat.
In our society, when we talk about never having anything handed to us, we ignore the very basic foundation we were given to make a good start.
Over the last several years, I’ve seen a lot of anger focused toward people others think are getting a free ride from the government. I don’t believe the government can fix poverty. I also know there are many people who live in horrible conditions because of poor choices they made throughout their lives. But there are many others that had very little to do with the circumstances they find themselves in. I am concerned that we have become so cynical about everyone and everything, that we are losing our capacity for kindness.
I realize there will always be people who try to take advantage of us and our generosity, but there are so many more that genuinely need our help. Sometimes just knowing there is someone out there who cares can make a significant difference to someone – especially a child.
At this time of year, when I hear frustrated shoppers saying they have no idea what to buy someone because they already have everything, it makes me wonder. Why do we do this when there are so many others who need basic food, clothing and shelter?
Instead of buying one more thing, consider helping people who didn’t get the start we did, by making a contribution to an organization that can give them a boost. The Neediest Kids of All, St. Vincent DePaul, The Freestore Foodbank, and Matthew 25 Ministries are only a few of the many great organizations out there that do an excellent job of helping people in need.
Getting a good start should never be taken for granted. This holiday season, help others get one too.