Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I had an interesting experience Friday evening. As Judy and I were relaxing and hanging out with our dogs the was pounding on my front storm door. The dogs of course reacted beautifully, the ran to the door and started to defend the manor. Three madly barking and snarling Papillons can be frightening. At the door there was a short woman who lives down the street from me. I’ve said hello when walking but don’t really know her so I was surprised to see her at my front door.
She asked me if the kids who play basketball at a newly installed temporary court on our development’s mostly unused tennis courts were too loud. Mind you I live about a hundred yards from the courts so her question seemed to be strange, so let me fill you in on a little background before I go into the conversation that ensued.
We live in a middle class, mixed race community. Many people are military families and most of the rest work in fairly decent jobs or are self-employed. I would say about 35-40 percent of the residents are African American. Our white population includes a lot of older people and retirees who have lived here a long time. There is little crime and people maintain their property pretty well. I have always felt safe in this neighborhood and have never had a problem with any of the kids in it and we have lived in the neighborhood for about 14 years, my wife living here the whole time while I deployed, traveled, or was assigned on geographic bachelor tours out of state.
A few years ago a suggestion was made that the neighborhood association turn one of the two seldom-used tennis courts into basketball courts so the kids would have a safe place to play. Since we have lakes that occupy areas that otherwise be parks that could have ball fields, or other places for kids to play it was not an unreasonable request, especially because the closest city recreation center is about two miles away. That initial request was turned down because some people objected saying that basketball courts might “attract the wrong kind of people.” My reaction, as wel, as Judy’s when we heard about that was that it was obvious that the “wrong kind of people” happened to be black kids.
Well it took a few years but finally a couple of months ago the homeowners association agreed to put up a basketball hoop on one of the tennis courts. It’s actually not much but it is something and there are restrictions on its use. Those who play on it have to be family members of the homeowners association, and have to be issued a key and have to lock up at 9 PM. When the court is not in use it is locked up. So now instead of unused tennis courts we have a basketball court when any night of the week kids are playing. They aren’t causing any trouble, just playing basketball. It is a joy for me to see. The fact that the majority of the kids playing are black doesn’t bother me, they’re good kids who need a safe play to play.
So anyway, back to my encounter. The woman began to tell me that she had heard that “people were complaining” about the noise, and she said that she wanted the city to force the kids to go to the recreation center. I told her that I had never noticed anything inappropriate or too loud and that I often walked around the clubhouse area where the court is in the evening and was pleased to to see well behaved kids playing on a court that was almost always vacant before. The woman didn’t appear happy with my answer and I realized what the meddlesome bitch was doing, she wanted people to support her in her attempt to kick the kids out of their own neighborhood.
She then asked me if the kids were ever disrespectful to me and I got upset. I told her that I see the kids playing all the time and that they are always respectful to e and that I had no complaints. I then told her that I would fight any attempt to close down the basketball court. I defended the kids and asked her “what kind of people would demand that kids not to be allowed to play in their own neighborhood?” I asked, “what do we do when we were kids? Did we not play in our neighborhoods? Were we forced to have to play at a recreation center two miles away from home?” I then preached her a sermon about how for years those courts had been almost never used and that as a dues paying member of the homeowners association that I thought that we had the responsibility to provide a safe place for the kids of this neighborhood to play. I told her that because of the lake and the lack of a real park that the kids don’t have a place to play football, baseball, or soccer other than in the streets and that I wouldn’t let her or anyone else try to shut it down. I told her that I would go to the association, the city council, write the local newspaper, and contact the local television news stations if I heard of anyone trying to shut it down.
I really don’t think that she expected my response, she backed away and apologized for bothering me. But now I am on guard. I’m going to stand up for our neighborhood kids who need that safe place to play. I am not going to let racist people like her take away one of the few safe places that our kids have to play.
When I was a kid we played in our neighborhoods, and yes, there were people that didn’t want us playing, but we could play, and we did. I dare say that we were probably worse behaved than the kids on the basketball court. My God we had fights, threw rocks and black walnuts at each other, and ran our bikes into each other’s bikes like we were Greek or Roman galleys. Yes, our parents disciplined us, but we still could play in our neighborhoods, and I’ll be damned if some old racist fogeys try to chase these kids off that court.
I have been asked a few times to serve on the homeowners association council but never wanted to do it because of my schedule. Maybe I need to run for the next vacancy on it to be a voice that speaks for the kids.
So anyway, until tomorrow.