“Gary had taught him more about love and hate and life and death than he could have learned anywhere else.”
Produced by Rebecca Werner with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org
Hold a Conversation
Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.
Transcript for Vibrant, Vital, Crazy Place to Live
There was one time I looked out my back window, and there were people in my backyard, and it was dark out, and I hollered at them, and cursed, and told them to leave, and they did. I don’t know if I wasn’t smart enough to be scared, or what. I was just really irritated. Yes.
I think we were just like, more indignant. Yeah. I think… Bad behavior—I mean, Ray and Tori, the couple that lived across the street from us on Birch Avenue, they had a really unstable life, and there was the night when the Corvette got shot up, and stuff like that.
I will never forget, though, that night when we decided that was enough, so we called the police—
—and they didn’t come, and the next day, Ray came over and thanked us for not calling the police.
For not calling the police. And then there was that drug task force working that problem behind the alley easement from our house. There was yelling out on the street: two men, and one man is yelling, you know, ‘Get down! Get down! Get down!’
Yeah, it’s a summer night. We have all of the windows open.
All the windows open. Big, three season porch in front. You know, at that point, now, I think my tolerance for goofy behavior had decreased because Gabe was with us, and an infant, and so, I can remember calling 911, and the dispatcher asking me, you know, ‘What color is the guy with the gun?’ And me saying, ‘What bloody difference does it make what color the guy with the—I don’t know what color he is. He’s got a big gun!’ And it turned out that it was a cop. They had cleared the house, and they had staked themselves—
They’d been doing a sting operation over the course of the week that we just didn’t know about because we were working during the day.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. At work during the day.
I was a little afraid that night. I think I picked Gabe up out of his crib, and went into the bathroom, and closed the door because that was, like, all interior walls there.
Sure. Sure. Yeah. And those kinds of experiences have certainly made us really, really assertive when, in our new place now that we’ve built in the Miller neighborhood, when, you know, a party gets out of hand, or something, you know, that night that I walked up the street and let that young couple know that we don’t put up with that kind of crap here. And I don’t know that I would’ve done that ten years ago. I mean, it sounds crazy, but that’s one of the things that I really love about Gary, is there’s this sort of marginal life that is a little bit goofy. There’s sort of a borderline lawlessness. So, Paul Panther, he was one of the people that I met really early in my ministry in Gary, and Paul said as a parole officer working in Lake County, Gary had taught him more about love and hate, and life and death than he could have learned anywhere else, and I always carried that around, that it was just a much more vibrant, vital, crazy, sort of energetic—
—intense kind of place to live. It’s got the same problems that everybody everywhere else does; they’re just up on the surface for everybody to see and not buried in the backyard, and undercover.