It’s been snowing in Chicago all day. A light snow, but by midday tomorrow we could have up to 8 inches. Now I’m leaving town tomorrow after class so I need to lug my 50 lb bag with me so that I can go immediately to the train station when I’m done. So, I’ve got choices. Either take the #55 bus and then the Red Line (train) and then lug my bag down two flights of steps to the street level and tug it another 4 blocks to the office building, OR #55 bus and transfer to #6 bus which will drop me off two blocks from the office building, but the bus will be more crowded and it will be a challenge to get my bag on and off. And then there’s the snow. Will I be able to maneuver my roller bag on the snowy side walks of Chicago? choices. choices.
I watched yesterday a mama and daddy push a stroller onto the train yesterday that contained their 1 year old baby daughter. It was obvious that mama and daddy had been at work all day and they had just picked up their baby and were headed home. The mama played and sang songs with her little one who was filled with toddler joy. She fed her mama crackers and squealed when she tickled her. I thought to myself, what a life in the big city. Parking prices are $25 and up for a single day of parking and the traffic is beyond words. So many people choose public transportation.
But what happens when the public transportation you relied on stopped running? Or routes were re-routed and fewer buses ran? Yesterday we were in a neighborhood that one of the train lines goes through. However, when the line was built, the neighboring communities around this depressed and violent “hood” put pressure on the powers and principalities to not build any stops in this hood. You see, executives and business types from wealthy communities who preferred to take public transportation to and from work, didn’t want to stop in these depressed and poverty stricken neighborhoods. So the Green Line passes literally right over these neighborhoods to service the haves and forget the have nots.
Now what does this do to a community that is already depressed? If you don’t have a way to work, then you lose your job, which is turn puts you out on the street or in the very best option, moving in with family where its already overcrowded. There are no jobs in this hood because, well its already depressed because people have no jobs and can’t feed into the economic base of the community. Do you see where this is going? Its a viscous cycle. So you have people caught in this cycle with apparent no choices who eventually think, what’s the worth. Crime escalates as children are never taught (by the way, did I mention the poor education system cause there’s no money to pay decent teachers?) how to move and participate in community, so when things are tough, violence is the only thing they know.
Now some would say they make a choice when they turn to violence. I suppose, but when that’s all they know, is it a choice? Some in our group went to hear a panel discussion last night from four former gang members: 2 from Detroit, 2 from Chicago. They’re called “Interrupters.” They’ve somehow chosen, by the power of the Holy spirit, I’m sure, to fight this system of violence. They’re walking the streets where they once stood holding a “piece,” but now they bring with them a different kind of “peace.” They interrupt escalating and violent situations and build relationships with young people and teach them a non-violent way of living in community. Yep, they made a choice and now they’re helping others to see that they have choices too.
God bless the Interrupters. Bring Peace to the hood. Because everyone deserves to have choices that bring hope.
Tomorrow: probably won’t hear from me for a few days. I travel home tomorrow night and transition back into my homestead. And yeah, I’m blessed because I do have a choice.