Here’s a letter I wrote when I was the pastor of Immaculate Conception in South Chicago
In my last letter, I wrote about feeling like I had found a treasure here. I still feel that way! We have a vibrant, alive community and we are full of hope. Still, there is a group of people I want to ask you to pray for. It is a large group, and they suffer many times in silence. Lately some of them have been speaking to me. They need our prayers.
Who are they? I have taken to calling them the “lost boys,” even though there are some “lost girls” too. They are people who grew up here. They are survivors. Some of their friends are dead. Some are in jail. They survived. For some reason, they have made a life. They are wounded, though. I would like to give you a summary of what these people have gone through and are suffering right now.
Imagine a six year old boy walking home from kindergarten. On his way home he sees a dead body. Or maybe somebody getting beaten up. Or maybe some blood on the sidewalk. How should he react? He arrives home frightened and tells his mother what he’s seen. His mother is shocked and saddened and angry. What does she do? What can she do? She wants to protect her child.
She tells her son, “You’re not allowed out of the house.” He learns an important lesson. He learns that if he tells his mother what he’s seen, he will be locked in the house. And so he shuts up. If anyone asks him how he’s doing, he says, “I’m fine.”
As he grows up, he sees more things happen. He learns not to pay attention when people are killed. If they are his friends, he may cry about it. After a while, he doesn’t cry so much anymore. By the time he’s 15 he knows a few people who’re dead and more who are in jail. Some of the time he says to himself, “they deserved it.” Maybe he joins a gang. Maybe not. His parents have no idea what his life is like. How could he possibly tell them? What can they do about it anyway. If anyone asks him how he’s doing, he answers, “I’m fine.” He’s a survivor. Maybe he’s thought of suicide.
Now, he’s an adult. Maybe he’s married. Maybe he’s divorced. He carries around a tremendous burden, a lifetime of saying “I’m fine” when he’s seen more dead bodies and blood and gore and violence than a war veteran. And all this by the time he was 16 years old.
Please pray for them. These are grown men who have survived. They are decent people. They have jobs. They try to make a life. Yet they have a terrible time making a life. Just beginning to speak about their lives requires tremendous courage and faith. And by God’s grace they’re talking. Please pray for me, so I can listen to them and help them. Pray for them, too, that they find the healing and peace they need. And for the kids growing up now.