Too many candles, not enough light

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, May 2, 2013

Young people in T-shirts with the names and pictures of the deceased gathered at the appointed time. They arrived in a somewhat jovial mood, but it quickly dissolved into tears as memories were shared and songs were sung. They struggled to light candles with cigarette lighters or from others’ candles, and struggled further to keep them lit in the wind and drizzling rain. Prayers were said and sobs were heard. Adults called for young people to stop shooting each other, and young people shifted uncomfortably in their spots.

I’ve attended too many candlelight vigils already this year, and I hope there won’t be another one anytime soon.

The city has seen four homicides this year, an average of one per month. The crimes ended the lives of three young men and a young woman between the ages of 20 and 31. There have already been double the homicides this year, with only a third of it gone, than in the entire year last year.

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I attended the candlelight vigils that were held for two of the victims — 24-year-old Angelo Beale, who died on March 24, and Diana Jones, 28, who died on Thursday last week.

Some of the words I heard at the ceremony for Jones were some of the most common-sense things I’ve heard in a while.

“It ain’t helping nobody,” Jones’ aunt, Olivia Knight, said about the violence. “What is it going to prove? If you want to prove a point, go to church. Graduate from school. Get a job. Make somebody proud, if it ain’t nobody but yourself.”

This comment of Knight’s is what life is all about. There are proven ways to get ahead in this life rather than fall behind, and she hit all three of them — have a relationship with God, get an education and work hard at gainful employment. Running around shooting other people never got anybody anywhere but in a jail cell.

I had a good friend from high school who died in December after a six-month battle with cancer. Her entire life, her favorite saying was, “I would rather shine a light than curse the darkness.”

It’s possible the words I write in this column won’t make any more difference than Knight’s words or the words of anybody else who has ever spoken on the topic. But just in case anybody is listening, the next time you feel tempted to engage in violent behavior, try something else instead. Read your Bible or another book. Apply for a job. Or maybe just do something nice for someone else. Maybe if more people shine a light daily, we won’t have to have so many candlelight vigils.