Thursday, July 21, 2016

This past weekend, I witnessed community in its essence. People who live in Grandview, from every corner of its boundaries and from every walk of life, came together to thank our law enforcement community and our first-responders for the job they do. It is most times a thankless job, and the event, sparked after a Facebook post, had intentions to change that. Good intentions that, going forward, can only mean better things and a united front for this community we call home.

The volunteers cleaned up, the trash was removed, the air let out of the bouncy castle, and everyone went home. We went home with a little more bounce in our steps, a little more love in our hearts and a little more appreciation for our GVPD.

Then, on Sunday, we heard some devastating news: three officers were killed in Baton Rouge, La. As if that wasn’t disheartening enough, we learned that it possibly was one of our own who committed these heinous crimes. Someone who sat in our classrooms, ate lunch in our cafeterias, visited our library, played in our parks and lived so very close to our homes.

Gavin Long could have been anyone. I’ve learned over the last few days that he was a bright student with a warm smile, who liked to joke around in class and made decent grades. He wasn’t very involved in extracurricular activities, but he graduated a few years after I did and went on to serve our country in the Marines. Gavin Long was just like a lot of kids I knew in high school, kids I sat next to and laughed with, kids I compared notes with, and kids who I’d see at Skateland on Friday night.

Somewhere along the way, Gavin changed. A switch was flipped and he no longer had the support of a community, the love from friends and teachers and neighbors. This seemingly ordinary kid from Grandview committed the most extraordinarily horrific crimes, in a community much like ours. A community struggling to create a bond of trust and hope, a diverse community with an abundance of hardworking, normal folks from all over the world.

It can happen anywhere. Anyone can change over time. We are not immune, just as Baton Rouge was not, and Dallas, and many other communities that have looked down the barrel of hate. Humanity has faced evil time and time again, and we will continue to do so. None of this is new, and we can continue to learn and grow. There is still beauty in this world, and I believe that there is more good than bad, more positive than negative, more light than darkness. It’s up to us to open our hearts, minds and eyes in order to see it.

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