A funeral procession is the very last place you would ever expect to be marred by violence. If you were a part of a funeral procession, or observed a procession, the last thing you would think about is getting shot, or witnessing someone become a victim of gunfire. That’s exactly what happened some weeks back as a funeral procession traveled westbound on Madison Street in Oak Park, and it quickly became a crime scene after four people were shot.

That event, as upsetting as it was, along with other recent reported shootings in Oak Park, have fractured the feeling of safety and well-being for many Oak Park residents, and individuals who work in village stores and other establishments.

Monday evening I needed paper towels and water, so I decided to stop at Dollar Tree on the 900 block of Madison — the same store this unimaginable horror played out in front of — on Saturday, June 10. I asked the store personnel if they were working that afternoon and did they hear the gunfire. One of the store associates remembered it vividly.

“It sounded like fireworks at first,” she said. “Since I’m not from this area I asked another cashier, ‘Oh you guys start celebrating early for the fourth of July?’ She said no, and I realized those were not fireworks; those were gunshots. I walked out and saw a person lying down in blood and saw everybody yelling.” She added, “It’s something that’s sad to see. You take a member of your family to the grave, and something else is going on, without you knowing.”

What happened to the days when people paid their last respects by being respectful of the deceased and the family of the lost loved one? It seems as if those days have dwindled away, as society quickly erodes from what we once knew. 

I miss the days that I, as well as many others, did not realize were our good old days. Days when children could go outside to play safely until the street lights came on, days when you could drive and the risk of being shot was almost non-existent, days when you could bury your loved ones and ride in a funeral procession without witnessing someone become a victim of senseless gun violence. This has been far too common in recent years, and more people are outraged by this senseless violence than those who are not.

What happened to the time when people would disagree, talk it out, argue it out, or worse-case scenario, duke it out? Simple little things like saying hello, thank you, or you’re welcome, used to be common. Common courtesies, common sense, and common respect, are not so common anymore. I miss those days, and I know I’m not alone. This is truly a sign of the times.

What happens to the youth when they don’t see the “little things” occurring between people as they grow up? The lack of “little things,” once common, can leave the younger generation hardened, defensive, and lacking empathy.

When children are small, we tell them to “do as I say, not as I do,” but that has backfired on many parents, leaders, and now society. Children have always mimicked what they see, not what they’re told to do. It truly takes a village to raise a child and, tragically, many of these shooters and victims are teens and young people.

I know there are a lot of factors contributing to the ills of society and juvenile delinquent behavior, but home is the very first place that shapes a child. If we want to begin to see even a small change, we can begin today, and lead by example.

This is certainly not a cure, but it’s a start.

Jennifer Harris-Thompson was born and raised in Oak Park. She has a diverse background in Broadcast Media, including television and radio, and is currently a traffic anchor and traffic producer at WBBM. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, Fine Arts dancing, and spending time with her family. She also loves to write and is a published author of the 31 Day Devotional, “Who Told You, You Couldn’t Do That?”

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