The adrenaline rush began at around 10 am; it didn’t subside until 10 am the following day. A friend working with me on a book project covering Skid Row text me and the two other reporters in the class to ask if one of us wanted to join her on a ride along with the LAPD. I hit reply and typed, “Yes!” as quickly as I could – I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity, no matter how much work I needed to do on my own articles. Besides, I thought the chances of gaining insight for my own writing were pretty high.
The beginning of the ride along was rather tame. A crazy man jumped in front of Officer Chogyoji’s car, and a woman was arrested for public drinking and violating parole. Within a couple hours, though, there was quite a bit more noise, and a few arrests for sales and possession. And the action continued to escalate. By the end of the night, Katie and I sat in the police car looking on as Chogyoji and almost 20 officers surrounded two women with cuffs on, face down on the sidewalk. They had been arrested for assaulting officers who were cuffing their husband/father for sales. At least ten cop cars were at the scene, with all the red and blue lights flashing on the side of the white stucco walls of Midnight Mission across the street. I quickly realized Katie and I were the most excited on lookers. The homeless crowd was calmly watching from down and across San Pedro Street. A few minutes went by and I saw a cop laugh at something a fellow officer yelled to him – as if this sort of chaos happened everyday! Silly me: it does.
Either way – fast paced or not – the three hours with Chogyoji impressed upon me the importance of his position. It’s obvious, there’s crime and some one needs to fight it, for the safety of the city, to “stop the cycle of lawlessness,” as he repeated so often throughout our three hours with him. Yet, the three hours also impressed upon me the importance of the missions, and the community, and all people surrounding Skid Row that are involved in fighting the drug, alcohol, and various other problems that often cause and/or arise or perpetuate homelessness.
We can’t do everything, but we need to do something. Sometimes our part is rather tame or seems to be in vain. But this is because, at least I sometimes think purpose in life is an individual thing. And then I wonder why I feel alone and dissatisfied. There’s power in a united purpose. The end of Chagyoji’s vocation is to fight crime, but that’s not the end. The end is to love and care for the people on Skid Row, to end the cycle of lawlessness. Merely fighting crime, arresting the same people again and again and again (there were two parole violations in the short time we rode with him), Chogyoji told us, was incredibly frustrating for him. I could see the disappointment written all over his face.
I can report what I see and hopefully speak some spiritual insight into what I see. Chogyoji fights crime, I write about it (at least for now). Our collective purpose, though, our ultimate end, is for the whole soul, for redemption, for renewal of ourselves and of our community; it is to work together for the end of love – love of God and love of others.
Psalm 9:18 says, “But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.” There is great strength for our specific roles in life found in the knowledge that God will never abandon us, and that he gives us the tools, as well as the company we need to accomplish what he wants us to; he has promised an end, praise Him, an end that is love.