Last night, under cover of darkness, I broke the law. Well, I don't really know if it was illegal or not. But it's fun to think it might be.*
Along with other members of Westmoreland Church, we set dozens of pairs of shoes on Westmoreland Circle.
Westmoreland Circle is one of the prominent traffic circles in Northwest DC. The church I serve sits across from the circle. Thousands of people each day make their way around the circle as they bustle to work, to school, to shop, etc.
The shoes we set up are a reminder of people. Specifically, the shoes are a reminder of the average of 289 people who are shot each day in this country. 289! Each day! Shot! Staggering. Troubling. Sad.
This weekend is National Anti-Gun Violence Sabbath Weekend. The shoe display on the circle is our way of taking part in that weekend. The shoes remind us that 289 people may start the day walking to work, hopping on a bus, grabbing a bite to eat. And they are shot. The shoes are a reminder that these injuries, accidents and -- tragically -- deaths - are not statistics. These are people, whose lives are forever changed, lessened, or lost.
Westmoreland Circle is a beautiful, leafy plot of land that feels more like a New England town green or a Southern courthouse square than it does a traffic roundabout in a big city. Northwest DC and nearby Bethesda are safe, comfortable, well-healed areas of our nation's capital.
Drivers just started seeing the shoes a few hours ago as they began their morning commute. I've already received a couple of emails from passersby applauding the display. No doubt we will get some complaints before the weekend is over.
People may find raggedy old shoes on the curb of a pretty circle to be surprising or unseemly. (Or as I said, even illegal). They're right.
It is surprising and unseemly to see empty shoes sitting on the side of the road. It is far more shocking and disturbing that an average of 289 people are shot each day in this country. The images of Columbine and Newtown and the Navy Yard are far more upsetting than a display of shoes.
I was glad to break the law. Or at least show down the traffic a bit. I hope these shoes on the circle remind us of the tragic deaths due to gun violence. I hope the empty shoes remind us of the people who no longer wear them. I hope the shoes on the circle spur us to actions that make our communities and our nation safer.
*Maybe putting these shoes on the circle violated some anti-littering laws. But if you're worried -- fear not! we're taking the display down on Sunday evening. And we're donating any suitable shoes to a clothing center.