According to the 19-year-old M&M Gas Station “Owner”, turned “Operator”, now described as “Clerk”, Jessica Lane Chambers bought $14 in gas the night she was murdered. Usually, according to the same principal, she only purchased $4-$5 in gas per trip.
Which spawned numerous people to ask:
Who buys $14 in gas?
Simple answer, a teen buying a pack of smokes. Video of the gas station shows a price of $5.30 + tax. Mississippi tax 7% total purchase $5.67. Hand the clerk a $20 and put the rest in the gas tank. Prior trips, hand the clerk a $10 and do the same.
Like many of the questions surrounding Jessica Lane Chambers, the simplest answers are the most correct. What’s less understandable is why so many people in and around Courtland have severe aversion to the spotlight of media.
Although that too can be explained, unfortunately.
However, within the specifically chosen wording is a more subtle implication. After considerable research we can share Jessica was HERE, Leah’s House.
According to their website “Our ministry helps women ages 18 and over who have been incarcerated, deal with addictions, behavioral problems, self-harm, depression, and others”.
While it is quite possible Leah’s House has guests who have suffered abuse, it is not a “battered woman’s shelter“. Unless, like Ben Chambers, you are trying to reconcile other facets of Jessica’s lifestyle and comfortable defining more complex issues into a category which will provide a distance from what might reasonably be called “guilt”.
Shame is not Jessica’s burden to carry.
By every indication she did right by all she met, and did the best she could while walking a path filled with trepidation and danger. It is actually remarkable how much innocence she retained, how much hope she expressed, and how little people recognized a simple fact.
The greatest gift you can give another human being is the gift of being understood.
If you look at the interactions Jessica held in the latter part of her short life you can see this quest to being understood. Jessica turns to the guest speaker at the Christian treatment center and says she wants to write a book.
Of course she does; she’s searching to be understood – to find willing ears to listen. At Jessica’s funeral author Linda Oliver said after giving a speech, Jessica Chambers asked her for help to write her own book. “She thanked me for sharing some of the horrible facts of my own story, and then asked for help with hers”. Oliver said, ‘I want my story to be told.’”
At age 19, a broken home behind her, the only child from the marriage of Ben and Lisa Chambers, numerous step-sisters and step-brothers older and younger. Everyone else with a home.
Eventually Lisa and Ben remarrying and creating additional family structures, but what about Jessica? Who had Jessica’s back? Who was looking out for her? Who could she turn to?
Who was her rock?
One can easily picture Jess sitting down and being too familiar with the metaphor inside the children’ s book: “Is this a home for hermit crab“? Ultimately a quest to find out where you fit in to this scheme we call life.
Where is home? When Jessica was eight and nine years old her father, Ben Chambers, was busted for running a meth lab and chop-shop for stolen automobiles. One can only imagine the litany of sketchy characters who would have moved in and out of the ever shifting landscape.
Entering High School at South Panola High, where the world of Football is woven into the fabric of status. Where Ol Miss college coaches routinely go first to recruit from one of the most successful football programs in the country.
Where High School, to College, to achieving entry into the NFL is actually possible. How to fit in? Cheerleader within the program.
Which exposes Jessica to a world of competitive testosterone gladiators who Ben Chambers would definitely not like.
So is it really hard to believe where you find Jessica in 2012/2013, at 16/17? Living with Bryan Rudd and his family. According to Mrs. Rudd Jessica lived with her for almost two years. Yeah, is this a home for hermit crab?
To who -or what- was Jessica the primary consideration, and not some displaced other found at the mid-range or even bottom of the priority scale?
Where was Jessica’s safe place?
Carrying a random file box filled with mementos that held some value, where could she unpack those simple dreams and find comfort? Where was the home for Jessica?
Ask these questions and you’ll find Jessica’s story. The place you arrive is where you’ll understand why Jessica asked author Linda Oliver for help to write her own book.
[…] “She thanked me for sharing some of the horrible facts of my own story” and then asked for help with hers, Oliver said. ‘I want my story to be told.”
Through it all, incredibly, Jessica held an innocence – an outlook free from judgment, free from traditional perspectives of “those people being others“.
She could never look upon anyone as an “other“, because she herself was as undefined as any she would bear witness to.
Shame is not a chapter for Jessica’s story; shame is a chapter for those who simply ignored the quiet unspoken requests which would only be visible if you cared enough to pay attention.
Who was paying attention? Apparently no-one.
And when you grasp that, when you reconcile those uncomfortable truths within her experiences within this small town Mississippi crowd; when you fully understand how incredibly invisible she was amid the social constructs; only then can you begin to understand why everyone local to her in the aftermath of her death is seemingly ok to just allow her story to quietly disappear.
It is unnecessary in life, and too painful in death, for the Ben and Lisa Chambers’s, the aunts, uncles and others, countless others; the community of Courtland Mississippi, to look in the mirror and ask the hard questions.
It is far easier to point fingers at the innocuous “them“, ‘their fault“, and as a direct consequence avoid the responsibility of their own indecent selfishness.
A lazy and corrupt Sheriff’s department who have allowed a dark underbelly of violent activity to thrive without restraint. “Move along, move along, nothing to see here….” Until, well, unfortunately, there is something to see – something horrific, something ugly, something now exposed.
Jessica’s story is not about race, nor where her troubles gang related per se’.
If you really look around you find she was warmly thought of, and held in high regard, across a broad spectrum of people who hold decent dispositions – good people, decent people.
There is indeed honesty from her black friends showing a broad social network who viewed her as a sweet girl of warm and decent disposition. She was. Look at her relationship with her niece, Kelsey. It was very special.
As reader JakeandCrew noted:
“Many of her friends, both black and white, knew her since elementary school. She obviously had no misgivings about having both black and white friends – and she had a black boyfriend. He was in a gang, but did Jessica start talking and dressing the way they did? Did she start dealing or using drugs, or committing crimes? I see no evidence of it. I see no evidence of her boyfriend abusing her, either. I’m sure she made mistakes, and bad choices – but don’t we all”?
A solid argument can be made that it was this very lack of judgment toward others that made her a target of immense hatred. Because amid the same community you’ll find some of the most abhorrent devaluations of human life; especially the life of an innocent.
Who would want to brutalize someone so badly. Who would want to punish someone in such a horrid and horrific manner. What kind of hate exists in the heart of a person who would want to defile her, tear her flesh, burn her, listen to her screams, harm and destroy a girl who, by all manner of definition, is the personification of innocent – and lacking judgment toward others.
…And yet, within that very innocence you find the motives of envy, spite and prideful hatred.
The story of Jessica is not a story of her faults, flaws, mistakes or misgivings. It is actually a story of incredible magnitude when you think of all the challenges she survived, and yet held an outlook of hope.
“Is this a home for hermit crab“?
Well, now she is home – home with her real Father. Home with the rock she so longingly sought.
And yet, even in death, she leaves us with a message:
Who in your town could be Jessica. Who in your neighborhood might be Jessica. Who on your street is possibly Jessica….
…. and who, under your roof, might just be seeking to be understood.