It’s Thanksgiving, and while I should be counting my blessings, I can’t stop thinking of 15-year-old Kidron Roberts, who was charged with killing a Camden High School freshman several days ago.
When I was 15, I was trying to figure out how to get girls, how to have fun, and how to navigate the new world of high school.
I wasn’t quite sure who I wanted to be yet. But I knew that whatever I became, I wanted to make a difference, because I wanted my life to matter. That’s why I can’t imagine a 15-year-old wanting to kill a boy his age. Yet that’s what happened at Camden High School, when Kidron Roberts allegedly shot Javonne Davis, effectively ending both their lives before they could even begin.
Unfortunately, violence is nothing new for Camden High. Six years ago, four girls were raped while walking home from the school. Three years ago, a high school football star named Jameer Bullard was shot dead shortly after transferring there from Woodrow Wilson High School.
However, this is different. This is a 15-year-old boy accused of shooting another young man. Their ages make this a story, but the victim’s life potential makes it a tragedy.
Javonne Davis was going places. He was a Rutgers Future Scholar. A year ago, he was one of the 200 low-income, high achieving eighth graders who are selected to enter the program annually. If they successfully complete the five-year program, participants receive full scholarships to Rutgers.
Javonne was on his way to doing that. He dreamed of getting a business degree and opening a barbershop. He played for a community football team called the Staley Park Panthers. He planned to try out for Camden High School’s football team next year, and he hoped to play professionally someday.
Now he’s gone, and the boy accused of killing him is not old enough to get a learner’s permit, though he’s old enough to hold a gun.
This Thanksgiving, be grateful if your children are safe. Be grateful if your family’s intact. And even if it’s not, be grateful anyway, because you’re alive, and life gives us chances to rectify our problems.
Perhaps that’s why tragedies like Javonne Davis’ death take place. In the midst of our sadness they allow us to take stock of our own lives, and give thanks for the blessings that we have.
This Thanksgiving, I hope we can move beyond counting our own blessings, and seek to be a blessing to someone else.
The opportunities to do so are everywhere. All we have to do is change our focus.
Instead of talking about that neighbor who’s overwhelmed by motherhood, try showing her a way to do it better. Instead of criticizing that man whose life is at a standstill, direct him to a place where he can start. Instead of shaking your head at that bad little boy, speak to him and show him that he matters.
And at the end of the day, when you’ve put your gratitude into action, maybe someone you helped will achieve their dreams, because you gave them a better chance to live.
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