There was a family-own dry cleaners at the end of the block I grew up on. I remember as a young child going there with my mom to drop off my father’s shirts. The owner was a thin built man who always smiled when we walked through the door. When I got married I moved away for several years. About 10 years later I notice the dry cleaners was closed as I passed by on my way visiting my parent’s. I asked my mom did she know what happen and she replied, the owner was ill. The dry cleaners remained closed, standing vacant and lifeless every since. My wife and I moved back to the neighborhood in 2012.  I would walk by the dry cleaners some days, dreaming about turning it into a breakfast spot for the community. I would imagine people coming in for their morning breakfast, police dropping by for coffee and donut, with everyone smiling and greeting each other.

In the afternoon on Sunday, February 7, 2016, out of nowhere, the back wall of the building collapsed. No one was hurt, but I knew the building would have to be torn down and my dream of this neighborhood spot would suddenly disappear. And over the next several days as I walked my wife to the bus stop, I would stop and watch a demolition crew take apart this building that was once a part of my childhood. Every brick and beam pulled down made me feel like I was losing a piece of me.

But a few days later as my wife and I walked by, I notice the building was completely gone… But this time I did not have a feeling of loss, but a feeling of renewal. I seen this corner at the end of my block in a whole different way, from a new perspective. This was not the same block anymore.

Change Violence By Changing Through

Holding on to the past is what a lot of people do when it comes to change. And in my neighborhood, especially when it comes to the topic of solutions to violence, change is like pulling teeth from a lion. Some here have been looking from one perspective at this dirty, harmful and dangerous lifestyle of violence for so long, they have become paralyze in doing anything about it. And if anyone steps up who wants to make a different, they are criticize and compare to past projects, which make them retreat and nothing gets done.

We need to look at solutions to violence from a new perspective, like the dry cleaners I spoke about at the end of my block. We need to see most opportunities as a new start to bigger and better things for the neighborhood. To see solutions as a cup half-full, not half-empty and a chance to change the condition of youth effected by violence, as a blessing. Stop seeing these solutions as just another way of disrupting your time or a reason to ask you for a donations.

Change is hard for some people, but if you focus on the possibility and not the condition, something beautiful could be made from a bad “looking” situation. So look for any opportunity to change violence by donating to better the lives of children so they won’t have to go through it in the future.

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