An eighth grader at Jane Long Academy, located only one block to the east of Gethsemane, stabbed and killed another eighth grader after school on Wednesday, March 6. It was Ash Wednesday, the day that God literally rubs mortality in your face. The boys had crossed over Bellaire Blvd to a convenience store on the corner. It was there that one of the boys purchased a brownie and the other boy asked for a bite of it. The first boy said no. The second boy said a few choice words he shouldn’t have. Then the first boy pulled a knife. All over a brownie.
Some things you have to unlearn. You don’t have to choose a knife over words. You don’t have to escalate the situation when you could just walk away. Manage your emotions instead of your emotions managing you. You don’t need violence to prove you’re a man.
On Thursday morning, when students and teachers showed up to school and learned one of their own was brain dead, the church showed up, too. Rob Dulaney, Amy Kelley, and Rev. Carrie Leader, a deacon appointed to Houston reVision, offered grief counseling to any student or teacher who needed it. I went to visit the student and his family at Memorial Hermann. He was good looking. Give him four years and he would have been Prom King. I prayed with mom and dad. Then the pediatrician explained to them in fluent Spanish that though their son was present in body, he would never again be present in mind.
The student passed away that Friday, so Gethsemane organized a community prayer vigil for Sunday. I thought fifty or so people would show up. There were at least four hundred, with standing room only in the sanctuary. The Jane Long principal spoke of her confusion and sadness and questions for God. We prayed together. Then we hit the sidewalk and walked the two blocks to the site of the violence. It was a mass exodus from a place of sanctuary to a place of bloodshed. There, many hundreds of us lit candles, the same candles we use on Christmas Eve, to push back the darkness. We reclaimed that space for God.
Lent is a time of unlearning. Violence is not how you prove you’re a man. The darkness is not stronger than the light. We’re not as divided as we feel. The art of neighboring is not dead. And death really isn’t the end.