Why is it that people like to talk and talk and talk before they know the full details of a situation? I’ve been thinking about the topic of “rumors” and “gossip” the past few days as they have been quite prevelant in my life.
It started last Friday. I got a text about midday from my brother, who works in the Elizabeth school system, that there was some major police activity in the high school. He wasn’t sure why, but there they were. It turns out that there were some threats of the potential of gang violence for that day and they were there to investigate. As a precaution, they evacuated all of the school (I think it was all of them). From there the rumor mill went into full swing. Later on in the day I received a text that 10 students were shot in school. I also heard that they cops found an AK-47 in the high school. Later on I heard that there was going to be a massive Bloods vs. Crips war happening that night. Next I heard that there was gang initiation that night and 60 people were supposed to be killed. From all the rumors it sounded like Elizabeth was entering into an Apocalypse with little cause for hope of salvation. At The Bridge that night we opened the night with a simple question: “What have you heard?” The room erupted with stories of chaos and anarchy and mass destruction. It came from all angles. Everyone had a different variant of the story which they held to be Gospel. And each were genuinely scared. Fear seemed to rule the city that night.
Today I received a call from Carlos that the Liberty Center (our church’s home) had caught fire. No one knew the full extent of the damage as the Elizabeth Fire Department would not allow people into the building until they were sure it was safe and fully inspected. Later on I hear rumors from other my parents that the entire building was engulfed in flame and the auditorium and stage was destroyed. This they heard from a friend of theirs.
What is it in us that likes to take stories and pass them along, with usual slight embellishment. Have you ever played the “phone game” in which you form a line, a code or phrase is shared with the first person and is passed via whisper until it reaches the last. The phrase is never the same as it was when it was started. The same is true of our stories, our rumors, our gossip. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t find anything wrong with the passing on of stories and of knowledge. But I prefer to have the solid truth before I share things. I don’t want to make things seem more, or even less, than what it is. I don’t want to implicate people or groups who have nothing to do with the story.
It is funny how what we hear can be so distant from the truth.
Yes, there was some recent gang activity in Elizabeth. Last Monday a twelve (12) and a thirteen (13) year old pair of boys were shot on Fulton St in Elizabeth. Yes, one died while the other survived. It just so happened that the funeral for Elisha Henderson, the boy who died, was on that Friday of rumor. And yes, it was true that the shooting was gang related. It is also true that that very same Monday, also on Fulton St, a house was sprayed and a man was shot in the neck. Yes, this was gang related too, though completely unrelated to the shooting of the boys. And yes, it is true that a gang OG was recently killed in the previous weeks… also unrelated. And all of these events were unrelated to the happenings of Friday. It is true that on Friday the police received a threat of violence at the school, hence the security. And yes, they found a gun…. a plastic toy gun, which they confiscated. And that was the extent of it. No gang initiation. No war. No Apocalypse. Just a toy gun.
There was no mass inferno in the Liberty today. A small fire broke out under the main stage – still under construction. The fire was contained in the storage room beneath the stage. The other auditorium and stage, located on the second floor, suffered no fire damage. In fact, none of the rest of the building suffered fire damage. The was much smoke, and we have to see how much damage that caused, but that was the extent of it. Of course, this will delay our occupation of the building, but there was no major catastrophe or destruction. All rumor.
I really try to steer clear of rumor-mongering and gossip. For the most part I feel I am successful. For the most part. And I think I will become even more resolute in my efforts after the events of this week. It was crazy to see what false rumors can do to people, and I want nothing to do with that. God calls us to live lives of truth. I want to live truth. I want to speak the truth. I think people crave truth. They want to hear it. They hear too many lies throughout their lives – on TV, in the news, from family and friends. Truth is a breath of fresh air, a straightening in a crooked and bent world. It’s what our souls crave and long for. And that is the goal for who and what I want to be.
A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. (Proverbs 14:25 NIV)