CROSSwalk, a sermon by the Rev. Fran Holliday,  All Saints' Episcopal Church Listen

Why CROSSwalk Matters, Reflection from Annette Holt, mother of Blair Holt Listen 


My heart aches for this boy

By Rev. Carol Reese

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Recently, three teenage boys drove up to the main lobby of the hospital.  The boys were ages 18, 17, and 15.  As they screamed for help, one boy—the front seat passenger—was rolled out into the lobby, dead.  A second boy, the driver, was injured from a shotgun blast that had torn through the car window… passing through the boy who died and into the driver’s arm and belly.  The driver survived but needed major surgery. The third boy, seated in the back seat, was not injured by the blast.  But…it was his brother who died and his cousin who was shot. 

The driver, I’ll refer to him as Maurice, became our patient in the Trauma Unit.  I met Maurice as he was walking around the unit, getting some exercise and burning off pent up energy – as you might expect from a teenage boy who had been lying in bed for three days.

Maurice repeatedly said, “I’m okay”, and “I’ll be fine.”  But, he also talked about nightmares and not being able to get the images of what happened to his cousins and him out of his head – there was the shotgun blast through the window, the realization that his cousin was shot, then tearing off in the car toward the nearest hospital to get help.

Maurice talked about his family, who were so worried about him.  For the first couple of days his siblings would walk by his room, look at him, and then walk away sobbing.  He could not understand why they were so upset – he was going to be okay. 

Maurice talked about his car, and although it was technically “fine”, he knew he’d never be able to drive it again without thinking about his cousin.  It was junk to him now.

Maurice talked about his cousins – both of whom were in high school and had high hopes for the future.  He told me about his job and his favorite pastime, soccer.  “I play 2-3 times a week, all year round, and I’m pretty good.  I hope I can play again – soon.”  I hope he is able to play again.

I asked Maurice about safety – does he know who did this and does he have concerns that someone might try again to hurt him?  He shrugged his shoulders.  “I feel about as safe as I ever feel.  Something like this could happen anywhere, anytime.”

We talked about how it feels to live like that – at any time you could be shot – doing something or doing nothing.  “I try to keep my sense of humor.  Really, I just try not to think about it too much.”  My heart aches for this boy.

Several things struck me about Maurice.  He was open and honest with me, a complete stranger to him.  He was insightful about his life, how this experience impacted him and his family, and was able to articulate how he would continue to cope with the violence surrounding him.  And, he was open to help.  We worked with him on coping strategies for his own acute stress symptoms. 

But most of all I was struck by this:  Maurice’s primary concern as he prepared to leave the hospital was for his 15-year-old cousin who was in the back seat of the car and a witness to the murder of his older brother.  “I just don’t know how he’s going to be able to deal with all of this.”  We coached him about caring for his cousin.

I was so impressed by this boy’s maturity, his open heart, and his love for his family.  All too often as we hear about these shootings in Chicago we rush to the conclusion that the boys involved somehow brought their injuries on themselves.  Whatever the circumstances in this shooting, I cannot find it in my heart to write off Maurice and his cousins.  On the contrary, I want to find a way to martial every resource at our disposal to support and nurture the goodness I saw in this boy.  Because, you see, now that we know him – he’s part of our family.

Every year thousands of our children, just like Maurice, are crushed by the violence that surrounds them.  So many young lives are lost.  So many others face devastating injuries, relegating them to wheel chairs and long-term care by their families or in medical facilities.  Patients and families struggle with crippling PTSD, and fear begins to define whole communities.  Is this the world we want? It cannot be. We, ALL of us, have a responsibility to create a culture that values, protects, and nurtures these boys I know, and ALL young lives.

Rev. Reese is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and works in the trauma department at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital, where she serves as Violence Prevention Coordinator. She helps lead CROSSwalk, a citywide, interfaith effort to address violence in Chicago.



Video Contribution from Bishop Jeff Lee, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

Video contribution from The Rev. Carol Reese, Department of Trauma, John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County

Video contribution from Rev. Larry Dowling, Pastor St. Agatha Parish, Chicago, IL and Chairman of the Board of the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention

Video contribution from Pamela Bosley, Safety Net Works Coordinator – The Ark of St. Sabina, and Mother of Terrell Bosley




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