A couple of years ago, my second son took a class for his Environmental Studies major at the University of Central Florida that had a community service aspect to it. So, like many of the other students, he volunteered at the on-campus Arboretum.
On Halloween day (somehow that seemed appropriate) he went with a handful of other workers to clean out a wooden storage shed that was in the back of the childcare area on campus. This shed was used for all the random things like old equipment, projects, and old toys that weren’t currently being used. And, like many such storage areas, it had been badly neglected.
What had once been useful was now junk and thrown into the shed haphazardly. Since volunteers were available, this was a good project for them. Clean that thing out.
So, armed only with gloves, the guys entered the long, narrow building. Nathan’s first thought when the doors were flung open? “Oh boy this is going to be a lot of work.”
You can probably picture it. The unit had all this stuff just crammed in, wall to wall, and it was extremely dusty. There was also a loft area equally crammed with stuff. Item by item they just started pulling everything out.
The stuff they were keeping they kept to the side and the stuff they were throwing away they piled into a dumpster.
One of the hundreds, trying to get away.
Before long, the most disgusting part of the job was discovered. After the items stuffed up against the wall were removed, suddenly hundred of cockroaches began skittering out of what used to be their nice, dark hiding places.
The guys reacted as you would expect: disgust. But they were also amazed at how many there were. Literally hundreds of these disgusting creatures had been living in the shadowy places that hadn’t been disturbed in years.
So, killing them when they could by stomping on them and bashing them with plastic baseball bats, the guys persevered in their task.
By the time they were done, the shed was emptied and everything was swept out (and most of the cockroaches were dead or back in hiding within the walls) the team felt pretty good about what they’d accomplished. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than before. Only about 20% of the objects from the shed were deemed worthy of saving and everything else was hauled off for the trash.
But you know what was notable about that job (besides vast quantities of cockroaches)? Not one of the people assigned the task stood looking at the mess and thinking, “I didn’t make this mess. I didn’t allow those cockroaches to be in there. I didn’t even know this existed. Why should I have to do anything about it? It wasn’t my problem to begin with!”
They were assigned a job, they saw the huge mess, and they went in and did what they could to get it cleaned out.
The problems we’re seeing in our country with police brutality, abuse of power, and systemic racism didn’t begin with us. The problem predates the current administration. It predates the administration before that, and the administration before that, and the administration before that.
In Genesis 6:5, way back in the beginning of mankind, it says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
This isn’t just a cultural problem, this is a spiritual problem, Pastor Tony Evans, founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, and founder and president of The Urban Alternative, said recently in a video, “Don’t try to change the nation if God can’t even change your heart.”
We’re seeing the disgusting mess that has been allowed to pile up through years of neglect. We’re experiencing the fallout of a system left to its own devices. And once the doors have been opened and the ugliness has been uncovered, something has to be done about it. Just shutting the doors and letting the cockroaches take over is not an option.
And let me just say this: I don’t think all cops are bad. I don’t agree with the idea that we can do without law enforcement. Believing that people will just “do the right thing” when given the chance has been proven by all the looters to be naive. But I definitely support reform and an abolishment of the brotherhood that says we take care of our own no matter what.
Did we cause the mess we’re in today? No, but we’ve let it stay hidden for far too long.