I am walking the streets of the Shaw neighborhood: Castleman, Shaw, Thurman, etc. It is about 4 blocks from St. John’s, where I am the deacon intern. Last Thursday, a young man was killed in a confrontation with a police officer on the corner of Shaw and Klemm. You may have heard about it; it’s all over the news media.
It is a dreary Monday morning, cool and drizzly, and the memorial of stuffed animals and candles looks a little mournful sitting under the tree in front of the apartment where Vonderrick Myers died. I meet a young black man who has stopped by to pay his respects to the memorial, and we chat as an occasional car cruises by. “I grew up in this neighborhood, man,” the young fellow tells me. “I knew Vonderritt. He didn’t have a gun with him. He was eating a sandwich…” He is a friendly fellow, eager to talk to someone about it all.
That is why I am here. I want to walk the street and talk to people. When I was in business, there was a concept of management called “MBO” – “management by objective”. But then someone created a counter-concept called “MBWA” – “management by walking around”, and many of we young exec’s of the day took to it immediately. Instead of managing by pushing buttons and pulling levers, so to speak, you managed by actually getting up from behind the desk and walking around the shop floor or the store or whatever, getting to know your staff, your customers, your business, your neighborhood. Instead of the detached hi-tech of MBO, it was the engaged hi-touch of MBWA – management by walking around.
So here I am, practicing what I call PCBWA – pastoral care by walking around. I am not in the church office, but rather out in the streets of the parish. So far, I have met and chatted with two young black men from the neighborhood, then a young white woman who was taking photos, then an old black man who lived on Castleman, then a young white guy who was rehabbing a home on the corner…it’s a neighborhood like any other neighborhood in a thousand-million places across the planet. People working, living, breathing, interacting.
Do I know the place yet? No, I don’t. I won’t for quite a long time; that’s going to take a lot of walking around. But as a deacon, if I hope to be able to bring the concerns of the church to the world and the concerns of the world to the church, I need to know the place where I am and the people who live here. We all do. If we hope to make all people’s lives matter, we must get to know one another as people – not opposing sides or enemies or whatever – but people, the sons and daughters of God, the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Perhaps then we will understand why some call for peace and others justice, and come to demand both. We will understand better why we do what we do, and approach each other not with agendas, but rather with hope and respect and compassion.