I haven’t lived in St. Louis in over a decade but my parents are still in the same house where they raised my two sisters and me in a suburb just north of St. Louis, a stone's throw from Illinois.
I have the best memories a boy could have of growing up in that house.
I remember walking to Halls Ferry Elementary School with my older sister in the morning and playing ball in the streets until dark. I remember the day the entire school made a mural. My contribution was a paratrooper, the mural is there, proudly hanging on the brick wall out front.
I remember waking up early on those ridiculously long summer days so I could meet up with my best friend who lived two houses down. We would ride our bikes until sunset.
I remember my first kiss on the Halls Ferry swing set and all of the other ones that came after.
But return trips home bring mixed emotions.
There is an undeniable comfort in familiarity; the sight of my former high school peaking over Killer Hill, which on second thought, isn’t so killer, seeing the Civic Center ice rink where, as teenagers, we would meet girls and sneak a cigarettes, eating Fritz’s Ice Cream on summer afternoons and going to Old Town doughnuts at 1 o’clock in the morning after a night out.
But my trips home are also a sad reminder of what once was.
Slowly, the things that made my childhood home a great place to live are eroding away, none more apparent than opportunity, or at least the perception of opportunity.
When we were kids, my friends and I would dream of what we were going to be when we grew up; engineers, pilots, teachers, writers.
Our imaginations ran wild at the thought of what we could be. The possibilities were endless.
But what if they weren’t?
What if a ceiling was placed on where you could go in life and what you could be? What if the only expectation placed on you was for you to fail?
Superficially, the rage surrounding the unfortunate death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager is about race.
Ultimately, it’s about frustration.
My Facebook feed is filled with thinly veiled racist comments; a complex issue boiled down to its lowest common denominator.
We have to look deeper.
There are few things more dangerous than a systemic lack of opportunity and the restlessness and discontent that it brings.
I believe we wake up each day and decide who we are and what we want to be.
But what happens when those decisions are already made for you?
What would you dream of becoming then?