Sunday, May 31, 2009

Neighborhood Happenings

There's a group of boys, ages 10-13, who like to come play basketball on my driveway. I like that they comfortable being there and that there is a safe, off-the-street place for them to play. Being boys, and tweens, sometimes they get a bit rowdy and rough but overall they seem like really good kids.

On Monday afternoon last week one of my backyard neighbors was robbed. They are in Florida on vacation. Someone went in through a window, ransacked the house, stole some video games and equipment and found the keys to their brand new car... Totalled in a high speed chase through the construction zone out on State 201. The lady who lives next door to them on the south started telling people around the neighborhood on Tuesday that it was one of the boys who play ball out here and that he'd scoped the place out by climbing on top of my playset and got into their yard by climbing the fence. She didn't say it to me; just my other neighbors started calling and telling me about it. Tempers were flaring and everyone was angry with the boys, and, to some degree, me for letting them play out there. To give everyone time to cool down and sort the issues out, I asked them to stop playing for a few days. Part of the reason was for me to sort it out, part was that I feared for their safety. I could almost imagine an altercation coming out of all this... Turns out she was wrong. It wasn't one of our homegrown Rose Park thugs at all. The burglar was a 14 year-old gang member who had also hit several other houses in this general area. How come is it that when there's older folks and teenagers around the assumption is always that the kids did something bad?

Anyway, I made up some 'rules' for play out here that I'm going to post in the next day or two. Then I'm going to let them come back. First I want to talk to the boys about why I asked them not play there for a few days. Right now they know it has something to do with the burglary but I don't think they know that they were being implicated and that there was practically a call for a lynch mob. I also think one of my next projects is going to be build a firepit (or if that's against city code, conveniently excavate one that's been here for years) and periodically invite these same boys to stay around after we light a fire to talk, tell stories, make s'mores. I think it would be one way for me to influence them, and hopefully lots of other kids, for good.

While I was trying to find out what had really happened Monday and what the real situation was between these boys and a couple of neighbors who seemed to have the most problem with them, I was outside talking to people. One time my guy friend from down the street a few doors came ambling up kind of full of bravado and talking about how he was going to enforce some discipline with them and that they were getting too comfortable out there... I was thinking to myself, "Dude, you don't need to fight my battles." But I'm really glad I bit my tongue because after I thought about it, I decided it was pretty cute that he wanted to.

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