war outside my window.

Audience: Readers of the community section of a local newspaper

Abstract: Davien Anderson retells the moments of his childhood that shaped the person he’s become.  He examines detailed moments growing up that gave him a sense of freedom and motivated him to move forward in life contrary to his surroundings.

Tiny scrapes draped my small frame as I lie at the bottom of the hill and allowed the bright sun to tease my skin. My niece, nephew, who are very close in age, and I brainstormed games like “who can roll down the hill the fastest” or “hide and seek.”  We had a simple goal –  to exclaim “I won” before supper time.

This was my safe place. Itching from the grass blades that whipped across my arms and legs, I continued to giggle as I spread my arms wide in the field while staring up at the Carolina blue skies.

“What should we do next?” I yelled to Carmen.  “Let’s ride our bikes,” she replied.

Pulling ourselves up from the earth, the three of us made a quick dash to the back of the house to grab our bikes, again turning the sprint into a mini-marathon. Making it to my bike first, I quickly jumped on the seat and made my way to our normal path. The  outlined our safe haven around the neighborhood.

Outside those lines was a dangerous world. My mom sheltered the three of us from this world and kept us in our own little protected southern region.

Reading the front page of the Charlotte Observer on Friday, August 22 took me back to those days of safety and security in a deviant world.  The headline read “Judge Oks crackdown on the Hidden Valley Kings.”  The above-the-fold story described a life of crime, gang activity and drugs that I didn’t encounter growing up.  As I read further down the page, another headline caught my eye.  This story was one that I had provided a quote for a recent community outreach activity.

“Wow” I said to myself.  To think that the place I once called home was featured for something so negative.  This was the same newspaper that I just spoke about my work with in the community.

Just a couple streets over from my house, those awful things were happening.  My peers were fighting wars that I knew nothing of.  Ten-year-olds were battling in the trenches disguised as street corners. The same kids that I went to school with each day were struggling to live and survive.  My life was different.  My support system was strong at home.

“Have you finished your homework?” my mom called to me.  I started scribbling on the pages even faster, hoping for a few more moments to run outside and play before the street lights flickered.  My niece and nephew had finished their assignments for the day and I was anxious to get back outside. I wrapped up my last sentence of my report, slammed my book shut and made my way out the door.

I couldn’t wait to take the few dollars I had saved and run to the ice cream truck.  This was the fireworks to my 4th of July.  My mom taught me the importance of saving.  This was extremely important when I had friends that didn’t know this.  Rather than saving, they were stealing.

The strawberry ice cream never tasted so good.  I bit into the frozen treat covered in tiny flakes of shortcake and closed my eyes. “Davien, let’s go,” my nephew yelled and we headed to our park. Walking down the street we talked about the happenings at school that day.  We shared tales from the schoolyard and told silly jokes that we’d heard earlier in the day.

Sitting at my desk I reflected on the moments when I felt completely safe and surrounded as a kid. I felt thankful for those moments as a child as I continued to read the words on the page describing the state of the neighborhood in which I matured. I began to feel thankful that I was motivated and encouraged in the same neighborhood where so many felt hopeless. Running back through the memories that I shared with my niece and nephew, ignited emotions of pride in knowing that I developed into the person that I am today.

Each day I played carelessly in my own backyard which pulled me one step closer to the moments of success that I’ve been so lucky to grasp. Just like the many races I won as a child, I felt like throwing up my arms and screaming “Yes!”

It felt like I had made it. I thought of the warm summer breezes followed by the gentle summer rains.  I loved those rains.  Those downpours gave me energy.  I felt as if I could do anything.  I thought about how excited I felt about life then and today felt just as excited as I did then.