Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Last weekend, I heard the closest gunshot I've ever heard in the city.

It was really close. Less than a block away or so? It didn't sound like someone was shooting off of our porch, but it was close enough to reverberate. And it was definitely a gunshot; I grew up with guns, I've got a cousin who spent most of high school training for the Junior Olympic shooting team, and a gaggle of brothers, a dad, grandfathers and uncles who are enthusiastic outdoorsmen. Part of turning twelve at my house meant being taken to hunter's safety classes with the PA Game Wardens. (Which, by the way, instilled a healthy respect for firearms and wildlife management, but due to the most frighting educational video in the world, also years of nightmares about getting lost and hyperthermic in the woods. Kids, tell people where you are going, when you'll be back, bring a snack,  a whistle, fire-starting equipment, and a black plastic bag! I still do.)

And so, I know it was a gun, not a backfire, not a firework. And not shooting a celebratory clip into the air after a sports victory, like we sometimes heard on H Street and have heard here. Just one, really close shot. I looked out the window, but didn't see anything, and then a few minutes later a cop car slowly trolled by. Silence.

Maybe I should be more frightened, but really, I was just unsettled and reflective. Until I moved into DC, my experience with guns has been mostly "gun as tool" -- a dangerous tool, but so are power saws and pickup trucks. Guns in the city are tools, too, but they seem to be tools for intimidation and violence. Which really, really bothers me.

I'm still wondering how to respond, but the one thing I know I can do is get to know my neighbors to the best of my ability. Even though the ones that have seen me must think I'm a crazy person; wearing clergy blacks and seven months pregnant, most days I feel like the walking punchline to an unfunny joke. But slowly, we're working on getting to know our neighbors by name. And I was delighted when Husband sent me this article in The Atlantic which backs up what we had figured intuitively: that knowing your neighbors matters in ways that cause invisible ripple effects for good.


  1. Whoa, that's sobering! I appreciate your encouragement to connect more deeply with your neighbors. I hope we can explore together ways that we can be reaching out more in our neighborhood.

    1. We'll be figuring it out together, I think. Since posting, though, I've been thinking about the investment of time -- what I mean is, building community is something that happens piece by piece, with every hello and invitation and neighborly action, over years. Guns, well, it's easy to whip out a gun and disrupt years of work in mere seconds. Maybe this is when we think about God's time vs. human time, or planting seeds/other long-term metaphors for relationships.

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful post. I have a similar reaction when I hear gunshot(s) in our neighborhood. Not scared, but unsettled.

    I remember in elementary school once a whole bunch of sirens going by, enough to disrupt class so the teacher had to address it. She (in bad public school fashion) encouraged us to pray for whoever was hurting. I still do that as a practice, but I also remember as a child wanting to run after those sirens and help who was hurting- or at least make sure they were okay.

    I want to be that way about gunshots in my neighborhood. Praying when it happens and engaging my community before it does so that we can make sure that everyone's okay.

    1. I'm glad you had a good teacher -- one of my best was the wife of a Lutheran bishop, and she truly had a secular-but-you-knew-it-was-ok-to-talk-to-her-about-faith-and-life's-big-questions pastoral ministry at school. She was a gift to us. Maybe, if we're taking a page out of their books, it's not just engaging but also being a presence in the place where we live.