This is the third in a series about the strangers that I meet.
Last Thursday four African American pastors sat down next to me in the subway car. They asked each other jokingly if they were sitting in the Senior Citizens area. I laughed and said,
"Last time I looked it was."
They seemed startled that I had responded, but immediately started a conversation with me.
They were handing out cards asking people to attend the "Multi Ethnic Movement of Love against Violence" rally on Saturday. It is being held in San Francisco to celebrate diversity and reconnect fathers with their children.
I told them about my neighbourhood and the lack of fathers. All I see are mothers and grandmothers raising kids without Dads in their lives. It is pretty painful to see how few succeed and instead turn to drugs and violence. I promised to hand out their cards even though I wondered if anyone would care.
As I walked down the street several telephone poles had reward posters on them. I recognized the male face on it immediately. Every Wednesday he used to hang around with the local CD bootleggers on the corner. He seemed to be a nice man and talked a lot about wanting to provide for his son.
Of course he was not living with his child and wanted to become a rapper. There is a great deal of rejection when you seek fame and fortune in the music business. Like others, he also chose to supplement his meager income dealing in drugs.
I saw him once on a corner with his son who was about 7. The child wore an oversize black Giants cap and one of his father shirts that almost went down to his ankles.
At 5:30 pm one day in July, the father was gunned down in his car. Of course the shooting was not random and the paramedics worked on him for 15 minutes, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead.
I looked at the picture of him on the telephone poll and felt sad. I pulled one of them down and read it. The police were offering a reward of $17,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers. I knew that lips would be sealed tight, and no helpful words would come from the neighbourhood.
Silent tears ran down my face. Was this how much a human life was really worth? The deceased was being treated like he was no one, when actually he was someone. Was my life worth the same?
After it was all said and done his son would someday see that his father's life was worth nothing more than $17,000 and a few memorial candles on some corner.
I put the poster down next to the "Love against Violence" cards in my cart. Those pastors were right being so passionate in creating this rally. But now there would be one less father there, and one more child would be growing up without his Dad.
Yesterday I saw his son with his grandmother. I shook his small hand and said I was so sorry his dad had passed.
He had tears in his eyes and told me very softly,
"I ain't going to be no rapper."
His grandmother whisked him across the street and I shook my head.
One less father for the neighbourhood, but maybe the life of one child had been gained.