Focus Scripture: Luke 18:1-8
Today was Independence Day. Two years had passed since Gail’s death. Everyone was taking some time to do some healing and consider where they would go from here. The community was changing for the better, thanks to the efforts of the Middlesex Gang Task Force involving residents, social workers, faith leaders, the school and the police. This group held regular meetings to exchange information and tries to find ways to ease tensions as they arise. As part of this effort, the local police, in conjunction with the social service agencies, schools, and the faith community started facilitating a conflict resolution program.
“Teens now have positive things to be involved in, other than hanging out. One charitable foundation donated $2 million for special projects. With some of that money, police officers have started a baseball league for preteens. The officers work as coaches on their days off. The schools and the churches are in the process of developing a values education curriculum, which accounts for the diversity of our community. There are other projects in the works, as well. Now I’ll turn this over to Keith Underwood, former school board president, to tell you what’s happening in our schools.”
“Thank you,” Keith said. “The Oakwood -Middlesex School District is in the process of examining its discipline policies. I am chair of an oversight committee to review the high school’s discipline codes and make recommendations on how to make them more fair and equitable. The goal is to have safe schools, but also to reduce the number of young people expelled from school.
“In the fall, we will begin hosting regular inter-agency forums to discuss gun violence and ways we can prevent its proliferation. In October, during bullying awareness month, our choir will give a memorial concert to honor the memories of our slain young people and inspire hope among the survivors, in addition to raising money for future programming. I’m now going to give the mic to Jefferson High School Principal Vanessa Chambers, who has other insights to share.”
“Thank you, Keith. At Jefferson High School, we are in the process of revising our curriculum to incorporate information students need to know to succeed in life. The curriculum includes life skills, job skills, and conflict resolution techniques. We’ve formed an after-school Storyteller’s Club, which will ensure that community’s stories will live on and the names of our youth will never be forgotten. We’ve done some research on social and emotional learning, zero-tolerance discipline policies, and restorative justice. We’ve formed a committee to look at ways we can incorporate some of the prescriptions of those programs into our policies and practices. The thing is we realize the effort has to be integrated and not piecemeal. So, we’re going to spend some time trying to get it right this time. We’re cooperating with many local businesses and with the university to provide coaches and mentors for these programs. The Parent-Teacher Organization has also formed an educational foundation to raise money for scholarships for students in need of assistance. We are open to other ideas, and our advisory group is available to discuss proposals with any community member or group that is serious about helping our kids.”
The community released balloons at 8 p.m. Fireworks began at 9. The celebration lasted into the night. Tears of joy and sorrow were indistinguishable as people celebrated the lives of lost loved ones and brought closure to their grief.
Three different news agencies along with all the major television networks were here to cover the events of the day. Reporters arrived in their trucks to bear witness to the metamorphosis taking place in Oakwood and Middlesex. It seems that the two municipalities had gradually emerged from a dark cocoon. They were now learning what it means to be a new creation united in love.