I have not looked forward to writing today's column. As a member of our community, and as a writer tasked to explore what's happening in our community with a pen, I just cannot in good conscience write about anything but the chaos that has swept across our city for the last two weeks.
This is especially hard for me to do. I have spent most of my life living in Trumbull County; but I have spent most of my life living far from Warren. In the security and the seclusion of the suburbs, I grew up believing poverty, sex trafficking, drug dealing, and yes, violence, were not my problem. They just weren't part of my story, safely tucked away in middle-class suburbia.
But now I work in Warren. As a pastor, I believe that God has been at work to situate my work and my calling in this city. I drive Warren's streets, I eat in Warren's restaurants, I daily interact with people who have made Warren their home. In other words, Warren has become part of my story; or perhaps, Warren's story is unavoidably being woven into mine.
So when violence, fear and anxiety grip our city, I feel it. When our students and their parents are afraid of going to school, I experience it. When social media is ablaze with rumors and rumors of rumors, I see it on my computer. When our leaders and law enforcement are trying to keep their heads above water - and our streets safe - I sense it. This is my story, now.
What is frustrating to me is that it has taken such violence and such fear to make me understand that this is my story. You would think I would have figured this out months ago, but I didn't. It wasn't until I had to choose to drive into Warren, when many other county residents would have chosen differently, that I realized that this was my story.
Yet this is something all of us have to come to understand. All of us have to see that Warren's story is our story. Because it's our story, we each have the responsibility to play our part in it. But we also have the opportunity to navigate the story toward a happy ending.
The stories I have always loved are those in which the characters, faced with uncertainty and anxiety, rise above it. The best stories are when the ill-equipped are caught up in big events, but courageously take their place in it and fight for a happy ending.
Here's the truth: without courage, there can be no change. Many Warren residents chose courage when they went to work or went to school last week. Many residents chose courage when they put on the badge again. Many residents chose courage when they decided to stand outside of Harding High School to greet students as they came in. One resident chose courage when she took candy to school on Halloween to give to students as they returned after a day away.
Now it's your turn. Don't stop visiting Warren. Don't stop eating in Warren restaurants. Don't second-guess your commitment to volunteer in the city. The fact of the matter is we know what will happen if we all back away and retreat: Warren will be done for. What we don't know is what will happen if we all make the city a part of our story and step into, not away from, its problems. To discover what could happen, you'll just have to keep turning the pages.
Tennant is a Warren resident. Email him at email@example.com