Monday, August 09, 2010

Stories Emerging from the Streets of Chicago

People-watching is as much a part of my life as breathing.  It’s crazy what you notice about people when you just watch them talk or act for five minutes.  Sometimes I think about their story as I watch them…observe various aspects about their demeanor and mannerisms and try to come up with their background.  There are times that I take an extra step and actually ask them their story, but usually I just watch and dream. 
One rainy day this summer I was journaling at Starbucks and enjoying my non-fat marble mocha macchiato.  I took a break from my thoughts and glanced out the window.  Normally I watch people and cars pass by, but that particular day I noticed something different out the window.  There was a worn-looking man sitting on the bench in the pouring rain.  A million thoughts started to enter my mind about this man, so I wrote them down:

The wet bench on Foster
    Is occupied by your camo jeans
People pass by without a glance
Your voice is your
    Only friend today
The rain falls upon
    Your weathered face
    Soaking and chilling
    Your worn clothes
The wrinkles near your eyes
    Outnumber your years
Your reasons may vary
Your story unknown
What keeps me from knowing?
What keeps me here
    In this warm seat
    With my luxury coffee?
While you move from the wet bench
    Gather your few prized possessions
    And find a new place of loneliness

This is just a reminder to me and all who read this that everyone has a story.  Yes, it’s fun to watch people and imagine what their background is, but so many times I can’t begin to imagine what this person has experienced.  I can assume that the homeless man on the street has had a rough life and the pill that he just popped in his mouth has been acquired with the money he received for that day.  But what about the man who walks down Michigan Avenue in a three-piece suit?  Maybe he, too, is spending all his hard earned money on drugs to relieve the loneliness in his life.  The homeless and forgotten of the streets are not the only ones who are broken in this world.  A millionaire can have just as many hurts and struggles as the man who is scraping by for one meal every day.  The crazy thing in all of this is that God loves each of these people equally.  No matter what their social status, economic status, race, religion, or ethnicity, the Heavenly Father loves them all.  God is not a God of favorites, nor is his love conditional.  If God loves them all unconditionally, it is my responsibility to listen to their story and love them as He does. 

-Sarah, CSM Chicago Summer 2010 City Host

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