Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shot At - Nine Times- But Not In Iraq

A few weeks ago I went to a Spelling Bee Luncheon that was a fundraiser for the KIPP Schools, an alternative public charter school system here in California. The 20 fourth to eighth graders were amazing. During lunch I sat next to a young man who had just made it into college after graduating from one of the KIPP schools. He was there to give a speech about his experience.

The most amazing thing was, that he was alive.

His younger brother was already dead, shot by gangs. He himself had been shot at nine times, but had miraculously never been hit. He explained to me later, that that was highly unusual in his neighborhood and among his friends. Most were dead. When I asked him how many kids in a classroom in his neighborhood would typically be dangerous, versus the kids who are just trying to survive and learn, he said about 10 out of 30. Seems like they should wear helmets and bullet proof vests to school.

His mother had found a flyer for the alternative KIDD school in a trash can.

We bonded over the surreal feeling we get when going back and forth between two cultures - for me between Germany and the US, and for him now between his college, and previously his more normal KIDD school environment - and his dangerous neighborhood. We talked about meditation and he said his brother who had been in trouble with the law often took court ordered meditation classes and always was better when he was involved in them.

On the way home - coincidentally ??? who knows how these things happen - an 82-year-old grandmother called into the radio talk show I was listening to, asking how to overcome her rage because her 17-year-old grandson had just been shot by gang members - the youngest of three boys. His two older brothers, still alive, were on their second and third tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"My Marines" (earlier post, here) told me Iraq was a paradise. A little known secret, they said. Yet so many people have been killed in Iraq and so many have been killed here as well. Too many ideas and too many weapons spoiling paradise.

Then again - maybe I am spoiling paradise right now - with my complaints.

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