Last night I promised you wouldn’t die.
I am now rescinding that promise.
Last night as I was driving home, I came upon what I thought was a car accident scene. I could hear you yelling for help. I could vaguely see your shape lying on the road in the dark.
I saw the cars in front of me turn around and speed away. As I came closer I could see you were lying on your side in a pool of your own blood. When I reached you, you said, “I have been shot. Please help me. I am dying. I can feel it.”
You had been shot multiple times. I could see blood pooling from two wounds in your back and what appeared to be another wound to your right arm.
I could hear someone on the sidewalk calling 911. A young Arabic speaking man was standing next to you, his bicycle behind him, the only witness. Or the only witness brave enough to stay and tell the police what he knew. They stayed and helped, others began to gather around but when I knelt down in front of you, we locked eyes. You begged me to help you. You wanted to know that we were not going to leave you there to die in the street alone.
I grabbed your shoulders and looked you in the eyes and I promised you that you were not going to die. I meant that promise. I am not a doctor and I have no way of knowing what damage had been done by those bullets but my gut told me that you were not going to die there.. You stopped yelling and laid your head on your arm. Your bloody hand grabbing mine.
You are young, good-looking, big brown eyes, strapping, strong man the same age as my own son. You are in pain, traumatized and at the mercy of strangers. You are begging us to help you. You need this community to save you. Your eyes said it all. We were strangers, together, on a wet road, in the cold, in the dark, in a pool of blood, holding on, waiting for an ambulance.
And they came. Police, ambulance, someone who seemed to know you. I stepped back and got out of their way.
When I got home I trailed your blood across my floor. I washed it out of my pants, off my shoes and out of my hair.
This morning I read in the paper that you are alive.
The paper also said that the police believe that the shooting was a targeted shooting because you are involved in the drug trade and that you weren’t cooperating with the investigation.
Everyone has a moment in their life when they are forced to stop everything and re evaluate where they are going and what they are doing. This is your moment.
Someone wants you dead. If someone could actually shoot a gun properly, you would be dead now.
Your parents would be receiving mourning family and friends this morning. Your mother inconsolable. Your brothers trying to plan your service, choose your coffin, and decide your final resting place.
Your last breath would have been to die like a dog in a pool of your own blood on dirty, cold street holding hands with a stranger. This would have been your final moment. Your crowning achievement.
But you were given a second chance. There are very few second chances in life. Whatever damage the bullets did, understand this. Your community saved your life. Strangers, the police, the fireman, the paramedics, the doctors and nurses, the old man who donates blood every week, even the person that cleaned your hospital room this morning, contributed to saving your life.
This is the same community that suffers every time there is another act of violence. This is the same community that is at risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Five minutes earlier and I, with my van full of children, could have been a victim. Five inches to the right or the left and you would have picked up by the coroner instead of an ambulance.
So where do you go from here? I am not here to pass judgment on you or why you do what you do. I don’t live your life but what I am sure of is that this is the time for you to change your life. Clearly the choices you are currently making are not safe, healthy or good for you or for our community.
There comes a time when you have to stop looking at the past, at the circumstances that brought you this place and you have to start looking toward your future and the life you want to live.
We are all victims of some circumstances but we can choose our future path. This community that saved your life are victims too. The community that came to your aid, also live and work in your chosen target shooting range. Young children were in the van behind the one you were in when you got shot. The police, fireman, paramedics, neighbours, and our communities are all drawn into your life without choice and yet you turned to us for help…and we were there for you.
What will it take for you to stop? The fact that you owe us your life? For most people that would be enough? Is it enough for you? Who has to die before it is enough for you?
The fact is that in that moment when we locked eyes, it wasn’t about money or status or being tough or brotherhood or misplaced identity and pride. In that moment, it was two strangers holding hands in the dark, trying to save something …someone …valuable. It was your moment of truth. What was your life worth in that moment?
In your eyes I could see that you were experiencing what everyone experiences when they are traumatized and think they are facing death. In that moment nothing matters except those you love. In that moment all you really wanted was to be in the arms of your family.
In the end life boils down to some very basic things. We want to love and be loved. We want to be heard and we want our life to count for something. We are all brothers and sisters, striving for the same thing. Death is the great equalizer. It sees past color, race, religion, past, status and age. This was your truth. Would it all have been worth it – had you died on that street holding hands with a stranger?
So it appears now that you have put your bravado mask back in place. Keeping your mouth shut to protect something, someone. Whatever the reason… in the dark, when no one is looking, remember my face. Remember that moment when you looked in my eyes. It was your truth.
Death doesn’t look cool or tough. It just looks dead.
For eternity you will be known as “that poor kid”. Is that what you want? Is this your legacy?
I want you to remember the moment you thought you were dying. Remember what that felt like.
This isn’t about loyalty anymore. It isn’t about proving anything. It is about living. Nothing more. Choosing to live.
If you do not make the right choice and soon, then you were right all along. You are dying.
It’s only a matter of time.
Last night I promised you wouldn’t die. I am now rescinding that promise.
This time …. if you want to live ….. it will be up to you. You know what you need to do.
You are worth saving. Choose to live.