Michiana Chronicles: A Walk In The Woulds

Sep 10, 2020

It’s just a coincidence, right?

One man’s good fortune and another man’s misfortune play out within minutes of one another in the same town, less than two miles apart, a 40 minute walk.

And it’s just a sad coincidence, no dots to connect here, right?

I‘m  on one of my walks again, head down, ball cap and headphones on, and mask at the ready for when anybody meets me coming from the other direction or crosses my path.  Since the Y closed that’s been my three or four times a week exercise, a good 40 minute walk, winding through the familiar territory of my neighborhood: west along the river to Howard Park, north to McKinley School, or east past Adams High School and through IUSB.

Even though it’s no further, only this morning have I crossed the river south, and I walk east along Lincoln Way from the Sample Street Bridge to Twyckenham.

When I cross the river I’m not in my neighborhood anymore. I walk around the beer cans and plastic cups and hamburger wrappers on the neglected sidewalk between the guardrail and the river on the north side of the Lincoln Way East that drivers speed through without looking on the way to work and then on the way home.

What makes this not “my” neighborhood? I wonder.

When what Christopher Stephens said about his daughter came across my desk last week, I thought about Lily.

"Oh man, the sweetest girl you all could ever meet. I mean, she just, from day one she’s been a blessing. It’s like the saying we say, 'Too good to be true.' For seven years that’s what I’ve felt."

And for 35 years, that’s what I’ve felt.

Those are words I use to describe my daughter, too. Too good to be true: that’s Lily, and our son Matt, and their spouses, Ari and Shannon, too. And a grandson on the way. Too good to be true.

What Mr. Stephens feels, about his daughter, that’s what I feel. And what you feel about your children, too.

Across time and space and everything that separates us. Nothing separates us. All too good to be true.

Except that Mr. Stephens had that ripped away. I did not.

"Oh man, the sweetest girl you all could ever meet. I mean, she just, from day one she’s been a blessing. It’s like the saying we say, 'Too good to be true.' For seven years that’s what I’ve felt."

Think about it.

Lily and Ari came to live here the day that Christopher Stephens’s seven year old daughter Chrisyah, was shot and killed in a drive-by at a birthday party. While someone put celebration candles on a cake on Donald Street, Lily and Ari drove in a rented car filled to the brim with my joy and their stuff, from their home in Brooklyn, to a new life, here.

As my joy true pulled off the toll road and through Mishawaka to their new home, another man’s joy ended on a street, a 40 minute walk away, in a different direction. Mr. Stephens had that joy ripped away.

How is that even possible? How can that be true?     

A child's toy near where the shooting took place that killed Chrisyah Stephens.
Credit Justin Hicks / WVPE

I tell myself I should make my walk a walk down to where Donald Street dead ends into the Studebaker golf course, to see that where Chrisyah Stephens died is my neighborhood, too.      

But, I turn north and walk home.

Music: “Victory” by The Avett Brothers, from The Third Gleam