A Suburban Mom Speaks Out On Deadly Youth Violence: 'My Child Hasn't Been Shot...Yet'

Youth Violence is an ongoing problem in neighborhoods across the country. Patch columnist and mother of three Christine Wolf shares just some of the lessons learned while working with the growing struggle in her own community.

Credit: Jeronimo Nisa
Credit: Jeronimo Nisa

This column originally appeared on Evanston Patch. It captures some of the heart-breaking, valuable and very real real truths of teen violence. Most importantly, it highlights some of the ways we can start to overcome it. Please add your thoughts in the comments. 

By Christine Wolf

I just received a Facebook message from someone working with a group called Leadership Evanston.

Do you have 30-45 minutes to discuss what you’ve learned from your involvement in the community with the topic of Youth Violence? 

While I’ll do my best to make time and share my perspective, I’m oddly fixated on that 30-45 minute window -- hardly enough time to scratch the surface. 

Therefore, this column serves as my "working draft" -- a way to prepare for the meeting and organize my flood of thoughts (and please add yours in the comments section). 

By way of background, here are some of my previous columns on youth violence in Evanston:

Who are you?

A mother whose children haven’t been shot...yet. 

What motivates you?

The need to erase the last word from that description.

What have you learned as you’ve gotten more involved with Youth Violence issues?

--That I’m sorry I only truly opened my eyes to the problem once it happened to a child who could have easily been my own.

--That candlelight vigils happen to real people in real towns with real tears. They aren’t just on the 10 o’clock news.

--That it’s more than just discussion around kids killing kids. Difficult conversations are required and often include topics like race, politics, education, blame, pride, money, education, opportunity, resentment, fear, suspicion, governance, motivation, and -- most thankfully -- hope.

--That there is far more good in the world than evil.

--That too few people understand Restorative Justice. Community members, victims and their offenders sit together to share their perspectives. It's about listening to and addressing the real issues affecting a community. The victim has a chance to be heard, the offender addresses what drove his/her actions, and the community gains perspective on the challenges requiring its attention.

--That patience, vision and strategic thinking are required, even when emotions beg for stopgap solutions.

--That I cry too often in public about this topic.

--That there are thousands of people wanting to do whatever they can to help.

--That there will always be people who hate your ideas.

--That turf wars exist not only between gangs but also between the very non-profit groups attempting to address them.

--That local politics can be just as bad – if not worse -- than TV shows.

--That the number of unsung heroes in my community is staggering.

--That social media plays two roles: uniting neighbors and promoting the problem.

--That it’s easier to criticize than to mobilize.

--That things worth doing don’t come easy.

--That young people in this world are simply amazing.

--That listening is only achieved with practice and humility.

--That every day is a chance to mend a fence and make a new friend.

--That it’s better to try and fail than to sit back and judge.

--That we need to put down our phones and talk to one another.

--That a face-to-face meeting is more work to arrange but more valuable than gold.  

--That our lives are filled with real and raw emotions, and kids need reminders that it’s normal to feel scared, furious, jealous, confused, embarrassed or ashamed.

--That intense feelings won’t last forever, and that kids often forget that…

--That it’s easier to keep going when you know that you're loved, even by one person.

 --That there’s so much work to do…

Want to see more of Christine's work and learn how she became an accidental columnist? Visit www.christinewolf.com.
paula sullivan silver March 08, 2014 at 01:44 PM
Thanks, Michael. I'll pick up those readings. However, this is just part of the overall problem. Suffering is suffering and intact families are not immune to creating or being recipients of violence and often affluent intact families just hide their suffering and violence better. The core issue is an inauthentic connection of human biology, mind and spirit and until there becomes a concise and expedited methodology sadly I predict more and more dysfunction and again no one is immune from this increasing problem since our interdependency on a global as well as interpersonal level is really becoming self evident even as much as we cling to the power of how it is fractured into parts of haves and have not, us against them, etc.
Christine Wolf March 08, 2014 at 01:50 PM
@paula sullivan silver, very thought provoking comments. I'd ask what we're able and willing to do now, rather than stand by and watch the predictions you mention come to fruition.
paula sullivan silver March 08, 2014 at 03:01 PM
All the modalities are out there and it will take a very special and powerful movement to integrate them into what I mentioned earlier "one" modality with an expedient sense of urgency to teach the masses yet there has to be a willingness to change and as we are seeing that hook, our children, our communities, our personal safety is spreading wide and far in all socio economic communities that non of us are immune to unless we build a wall and hand out guns, oh, we are basically doing that legally in affluent communities and illegally in poor but again the formation of harm comes from an inauthentic sense of wanting to be something, wanting power, not wanting to be left behind, inability to navigate ones biology which is being led by the parental figures of a family unit coupled with the values of society. This has to be usurped collectively and that journey is an inward journey of discovery not above anyone. Through this journey we dismantle our own ill structured value system which will aid in the restructuring of a more whole and authentic external structure system that will take in to consideration all of us, yet the will to only see oneself and ones family or likeminded/like-looking people as community is destructive to our all. Not all dollars are created equal and not all mitzvahs are genuine. My family tells me I should write a book and I'm trying to usurp my own sloth behavior :) Start with yourself and those you love by waging a battle with your own biology and educate yourself with Buddhism yet again, psychology is part of it as well as along with mindfully de-escalating responses to external stimuli, impetus for any behavior that is adding into the formation of disingenuous endeavors even purchases or addictions, self care and self remodeling of the desired results, striking down any thought against another in oneself...I could go on and on. A healthy authentic integration of ourselves and our society and our world is really the only collective goal that we should all be focusing on but again there is no power in the we only in the me.
Jordan S. Zoot March 09, 2014 at 09:26 AM
I wonder what would happen if they tried vodka tamponing with habenero vodka
GM April 01, 2014 at 09:59 AM
You know, when I was a kid, there weren't a lot of restrictions on things like gun ownership, but there also weren't a lot of examples of the teen gun violence that you're talking about here. Presumably, we have a better society now than what we had back then, but I think the solutions you're looking for to today's issue of teen violence might just be found in a careful, objective look at what has been lost over the years from the ideals, norms and perspectives people had back then. What I see too much of today is people trying to put an overlay on top of the problem, instead of looking at what has worked and discussing how to get back to the way things were in those areas that look, in retrospect, like they worked better than what we have now. If we don't do that, then these conversations revolve around platitudes, incomprehensible personal theories, or people just plain shooting from the hip and hoping their ideas will work. Basically, a lot of thrashing around.


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