Gun-toting Teddy Bear

Central Eastside Industrial Park. Train tracks cut through a busy intersection at SE 8th and SE Division. Usually I am able to avoid long waits, but not this time. A train loaded down with diverse industrial payloads sliced through the area, cutting off my field of vision. So I sat back and took in the view. A few engines. Several cars full of telephone polls, finished lumber, and closed cars which hid their contents, if not their uninvited artwork.

Graffiti is ubiquitous in industrial areas and on rail cars. I doubt anyone seriously attempts to combat it anymore. Some of the images are quite creative and impressive. They rushed past on their way northward. I saw each of them, but paid little heed, although I did snap a few photos to pass the time.

When the train passed, I continued my route, putting the experience out of my mind. Until I got home.

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For some reason, the depiction of an angry teddy bear wielding a nasty looking gun is unsettling. Most train graffiti is abstract or obscure, using gang semiotics. Not so, this image. It makes its point rather clearly.

Just like the gang shooting in North Portland last week.

Although KPTV reports the Portland Police Bureau statistic that as of March 28, 2013 there have been only 13 gang shootings so far this year, last year saw a record 118. And summer is not too far away, which typically causes an uptick in gang activity.

So, a furry grumpy bear wielding a weapon through the heart of gang-affiliated territory takes on new meaning. It’s not simply the expression of a rebel artist; it’s a symptom of something far more ominous plying its trade on the hearts of impressionable young people with no positive direction in life.

It reminds me why I embrace my pastor’s vision to rescue young people from the world and disciple all. I will trade in comfortable living for life-changing meaning without hesitation, understanding that there are thousands of children and youth who need a positive role model, better influences, and most importantly, a relationship with Jesus Christ whose resurrection we celebrate today and throughout the 50 day season Easter, culminating on Pentecost Sunday.

The power of the resurrection overcomes the power of a bullet, the fear of reprisals, the cowering from violence which could explode in broad daylight in a seemingly safe area, as it did last week in Cully Neighborhood. So, I pray for that neighborhood and its people, as well as the entire city. And I seek to live out the joy of Christ as a contributing member of this community as I do life with others throughout the city, but especially within my small neighborhood in the margins of Portland life.

What about you? How are you intentionally doing life in your neighborhood?

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