We practiced Immersion for the weekly groups. I'm handed $8, a map and a ticket for the L that will cover a four-person team. Our goals: find the assigned Chicago neighborhood, talk to people, experience a taste of homelessness and buy ourselves dinner with a couple of bucks.
My team was directed to Michigan Ave., which is pretty much the wealthiest street in the city. The restaurants and malls were decadent. The Chicago Tribune, the Hancock Tower and the Trump Tower overshadowed us. Then, my forte: journalism on the streets. We were also supposed to ask questions of Chicago-ites pretending we were part of the "working poor." I asked for job applications at several locations, claiming I was new to the city and didn't own a computer. The women returned my questions graciously and pointed me to the public library.
Seeing a magician, we stopped to ask him some questions about Chicago. He answered in a British accent, and after a 10-minute conversation, he pulled a dollar out of a lemon for us. But that dollar was one we were supposed to use for food. So with $7 to buy four people dinner, we explored Walgreens and exited the store 30 long minutes later with a loaf of bread, bananas, pop tarts, and $0.50 peanuts. Not quite a satisfying dinner, but it worked.
Beyond the stress and exhaustion, it will be a thoughtful summer. Reflections from today and last night--things I know, but needed to be reminded of:
The difference between the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor is incredible when you walk through all neighborhoods in one day. They all live as if the others don't exist. I learned to re-appreciate all that I have, which is a necessary realization to have often, especially coming from affluent school, peers and neighbors.
Last night on the prayer tour of the city, I realized how much racism and segregation still exists, especially in Chicago. We drove through the city and I literally saw the neighborhoods turn from white to Asian to African-American to Hispanic. The visual impact hit me full force.
It's humbling starting over on a new team--we're all learning humility as we all start again. I feel very prepared, especially with ministries and RA-ing experiences at Gordon, in the D.R., etc. But I know God will show me true brokenness. We can all feel it.
My new favorites:
Crispy butternut squash fritters from Afghan Kabob (awesome name, yes?!).
It's the L , not the T! And it's above ground! Boston, get on that.
Having a room to myself for the first time in...my life. What?!
This is a whole new world. Pavement. Gangs. Spotty Internet. Diversity.
-Kara, CSM Chicago Summer 2011 City Host
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