Inner City Diary
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Sticking together to make things better
October 10, 2004
During this month's meeting of the West End CIA (Community Improvement Association) residents met once again to discuss life in our neighbourhood.

We had the usual discussion regarding crime. We explored news issues from our various perspectives as neighbours. We discussed issues that are not yet on the radar of news media, always trying to brainstorm new ways to deal with problems or celebrate successes.

We were joined in our discussion by several of our community police officers. Their attendance was not unusual. But this time, I found myself nervous at their arrival.  

Several weeks ago, I wrote a column calling for accountability regarding a few highly publicized allegations against several officers. I wrote sincerely, from a sense of betrayal and disappointment in the alleged actions of those few. I felt they betrayed not only the trust of the community, but also the reputation of their fellow officers.

I underscored the fact that the overwhelming majority of our experiences with police are positive. They're putting their own lives on the line to guard our shared goal of community revitalization.

But all that sense of feeling right about what I wrote faded as I picked up the paper that Sunday morning.

Typically, my columns are submitted on Thursdays, and I have no idea of the news context in which the column is published on Sunday.

On that Sunday morning I picked up the paper like the rest of you to read the front page story about the death of an officer that served our community very well for years.

As I read the story, I wished that I had picked almost any other week to publish a rant about accountability for the mistakes of a few cops somewhere else.

I re-read my own column. I found myself praying that my words, my tone and the uncontrollable convergence of a tragedy and an unrelated rant would not be misunderstood by people I respect.

I drove past the Broadway police service centre several times over the next week and a half.

I told myself I was too busy to stop in. But I knew the real reason I didn't visit or call was because I was too chicken to face the fact I may have unintentionally hurt some people I care about.

I still hadn't visited or talked to those guys until they walked into our community meeting this Wednesday night. Unsure of how to deal with the situation, I just told them how I felt. In front of everyone.

Given what they might have been feeling, their absence would have been understandable. But their presence and the frank discussion that followed in our meeting meant a lot to me.

Residents applauded as we recounted the closing of the drug house doors away from where that 14-year-old was murdered a few weeks ago.

We strategized how to address some of the other most blatant trouble spots in the area.

Residents and police both shared their frustrations that sometimes things don't change as quickly as we wish they would.

I looked around the room at all the others who were there from the neighbourhood.

Despite the gloom and doom around us, despite all the complaints and issues, our hopes are buoyed by the fact that we're at least trying to do something about it.

And the first thing we're doing is sticking together.

There's a time to talk about making things better. I do a fair bit of that.

But there's a time just to be thankful for what you have. I never want to forget to do that.

As I write these words, I have no advance knowledge of the news context of Sunday's paper. But I know that the day on which you read this column has been designated as "Thanksgiving" Sunday.

And this week I was reminded anew that I have many things, and many more people, for whom I am deeply grateful.

Have a great Thanksgiving!
Copyright 2004
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929