Where Can We Be Safe?

This piece I wrote was published at The Gospel Coalition nearly two weeks ago.  In light of recent events, it’s more timely than ever.


Last spring I promised my kids a visit to a new playground. It was early evening when we pulled up to the play structure in an urban Virginia neighborhood a mile from our home. A group of about 20 school-aged children were laughing and goofing around on the grass. How refreshing, I thought, seeing children outside playing—a sure sign of strong community. While my daughters flew down the slide, the gaggle of children transitioned to the adjacent field and began cheering. Several of the older youth held up cell phones, recording some interaction taking place amid the group. I took a closer look and noticed two smaller children on the ground, gripping each other in the fetal position, grasping each other’s hair in their fists. They were fighting.

“Hey, what are you guys doing?” I spoke in a loud but casual voice as I jogged over from the playground. Everything became silent as the circle opened up to reveal two young girls, still engaged in their bout. “Hey, stop that!” The kids looked at me as if to say, “Who are you, and why do you care?” Some of the older youth put their phones down and stopped recording. The rivals released their grips, brushed off, and stood up.

“Don’t fight here by the playground. It’s a bad example for my kids.” Although lame, it was the quickest explanation I could come up with. No one verbally responded to my effective yet weak rebuke. They just meandered away to continue their game elsewhere.

An older gentleman saw the interaction and called to me from the sidewalk. “What’s going on?” I explained what I’d seen, and he confided he’d recently seen a story on the news about children fighting, recording it, and posting it online. Some were seriously injured participating in this “game.” I hadn’t heard of the phenomenon, though I wasn’t shocked. “Did you hear the shooting around the corner?” he asked. “The police have it all roped off. A lady was shot an hour ago.” That was about 15 minutes before I’d arrived at the park. “It’s not safe,” he continued. Before he walked to his home around the corner, he urged me to head home while there was still light. . .

Continue reading here.

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