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How many shootings before I move?

Duluth Police Officer Rob Hurst and Hondo walk along a sidewalk along Superior Street near the Park State Bank in Lincoln Park shortly after it was robbed in January 2016. (Photo by Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune)

Last week there was a shooting in Lincoln Park. We live less than a mile from there, but this news didn't have me or my neighbors considering a house sale. The west side of Duluth can be an edgy place to live. We have an abundance of natural beauty and also an abundance of poverty and need. We have an absence of pretension and an absence of convention which produce creativity and unique craftsmanship.

Looking around, one finds oneself in Duluth's most creative neighborhood. We house Duluth's Best Bread, Duluth Grill, Frost River, Bent Paddle, Clyde Iron, Aerostich, Duluth Children's Museum, Lake Superior Brewing, Duluth MakerSpace and Duluth Art Institute along with other innovative businesses. All these companies make or provide unique products and services. Apparently the lack of trying to reach status quo has fostered an environment where new ideas are given legs.

But the neighborhood is not without its struggles. Last week three men were in an altercation and one lost his life. Three weeks ago there was a shooting at the scenic overlook on West Skyline Parkway. I walk my dogs past this spot several times a week. Will I stop now? On the contrary, if I can fill that space with a cheerful disposition, my prayers and the happy panting of a couple of dopey dogs, then I will keep a foothold on all that is worthy and well.

The Lincoln Park branch of US Bank has received more than its share of hold-ups. My response has been to use that branch of the bank as much as possible. Those tellers need to see friendly, familiar faces they don't have to be suspicious of.

I do not gullibly assert that problems disappear if we put on a happy face. Five years ago a man broke into our home on a bitterly cold January night. It was terrifying. We awoke to the sound of pounding, shouting and shattering glass. The man broke in because he was drunk; the temperatures were arctic and he'd lost his shoes in the snow.

It turned out he wasn't dangerous or malevolent. He was trying to survive. Fortunately, my husband, gun in hand (20-plus years of training, another whole conversation), had the presence of mind to talk the perpetrator into sitting and warming up for a spell. He calmly listened to the man and helped him figure out what had gone wrong that night. It was our bad luck that he chose our window to break. It was his good luck that he wasn't shot in the choosing. The Duluth Police came and took the intruder away and even helped us tape up the broken window.

That man paid his dues, bought us a new window and apologized. We forgave him, but we weren't able to replace the peace that experience robbed from us.

For a solid year afterward I had trouble sleeping. Lying awake, I would listen for the sounds of windows breaking or steps creaking. Things like that happen. Things like that can happen twice. Drug deals go bad. Men fight in bars. To mayhem and poor decisions there is fallout on the innocent. I'm learning how to not let my worry mind take control, but these experiences have forced me to find new coping skills.

One fall evening I stepped out of the garage to shake out a rug. My attention was immediately caught by a flashlight making its way through the woods next to me. Slightly creeped out, I stood my ground to see who was walking through my yard. The flash of a badge and a voice, "Excuse me, ma'am," put me on alert.

"Did you see anyone running by here just now?" the police officer asked me. When I responded with a curious but definite "No?" he said, "OK, then. Would you mind stepping back into your house and making sure all your doors and windows are locked?"

I did as I was told, but I then went running through the house yelling, "There's a criminal on the loose! Somebody make sure the basement door is locked! Somebody check the porch door!"

I never did find out what danger lurked around the corner, but I'm okay living in an exciting neighborhood. Lincoln Park has been the site of some violence, but it should not be diminished or avoided. Lincoln Park is suffused with potential. The vision and resourcefulness of its inhabitants will keep many of us here for a long time.

S.E. Livingston

Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota and lives in Duluth.