So the day started off with public transportation again. The #55 to the Green line to the loop. But I was craving a “Corner Bakery” coffee, so two of us got off early and walked an extra 5 blocks out of our way to satisfy my craving. The streets of downtown Chicago were already bustling with people going this and that way, and I found to my surprise that I was nearly run over by a “Corner Bakery” cart filled will goodies and coffee barreling down the sidewalk! Who needed the corner bakery when it was coming right at you! Satisfying my craving we arrived at the offices where we were scheduled to meet in due time for class to begin….
A few days earlier, several blocks north, there’s another Corner Bakery (of course, we’re in Chicago!). Since we do not have these bakeries in St. Louis and our family fell in love with them in Denver, I ran inside to fill up with delights again. But as I walked outside and around the corner, there were several folk sitting or standing on the side of the street holding HOMELESS signs and asking for assistance. We’re told not to be blinded from injustice and poverty or to act as if those stricken by it are invisible, but then we’re also told by those who advocate for the poor and needy, “don’t do anything for anyone that they can do for themselves,” advocating for a societal system that moves from entitlement to empowerment. So what to do? Food carts on one end of the street and hungry and homeless people on the other, with a Corner Bakery to bookend them both….
You’ve heard the term “the hood” before. Right? Well I’m beginning to wonder if all of this city is “the hood”. We’ve been told by local residents – “Don’t stand on that street and wait for a bus – I wouldn’t.” Or “Are you sure you’re on the right bus?” as we headed to a less desirable neighborhood. Or “mmm..mmm. don’t be going there! That’s the hood of all hoods!” Maybe the whole city isn’t “the hood,” but instead, whenever us white folks find ourselves in an all black or other minority neighborhood, we immediately assume its “the hood!” But I wonder how the child who walks the streets everyday in “the hood” sees the world around her.
A group of 4 young black men last week gathered on the edge of the street to perform a rap routine for passer bys. Four of us pastors in training stopped with many others to look on. “We’re not from the hood!” They rapped right of way, “so we’re not here to rob you or mug you or harm you….” and they carried on a quite entertaining routine, of which when the conclusion came, we all contributed to their well being. Action on the street.
On the bus yesterday after we left David and friends at Humboldt Park across the street from San Lucas that serves hot lunches once a week to primarily homeless patrons in the neighborhood, it wasn’t more than 6 minutes and we traveled by a Mercedes Benz dealership. I had to look twice! So what’s this “hood” like? Here we go from absolute destitute poverty and travel down the street to wealth beyond means. The same street, different hoods. Different people. Different colors. Different houses. No houses. Boarded up health clinics. New high rise Medical centers. Different schools. Different groceries….. Different opportunities. No opportunities.
But there’s one thing that’s the same on any street corner. Jesus. Jesus is in the hood no matter where we stand on the street. St. Sabina reminds its parishners that every day they set foot in the church. Way up high is suspended a large neon JESUS sign lit up in the midst of traditional turn of the century church architecture. Father Pflager says, “We don’t ever want to lose sight of the street and who’s there with us.” Time to take Jesus to the street!
Tomorrow: Choices. Choices.