frances in the city

on my heart: Psalm 44:26
October 6, 2008, 3:58 am
Filed under: ponderings

I’m nearly halfway finished with a book for my New Millennium Studies class called Our America. It’s about growing up in the projects of Chicago. It was written by two teenagers who overcame terrible conditions — rampant violence, excessive drug and alcohol abuse, gang activity, and frequent death. These projects lie just south of where I sit right now, on my squishy couch with my thousand-dollar computer open on my lap. Just down State Street is an entirely different world.

I know that in college you’re supposed to broaden your horizons. I kind of thought that had to do with taking a large variety of classes. In the short 6-week period I’ve lived in Chicago, my world has quadrupled. I’ve seen more homeless people than I wanted to acknowledge existed. I’ve learned the definition of “peddling.” I’ve walked over broken glass in so-called “bad parts of town” that are the homes of so many young families.  I’ve toured museum galleries with some of the wealthiest and unhappiest people in the city. I’ve ridden on busses with beautiful babies and their teenage mothers. And there’s so much more to come. I’m so thankful for all of the beautiful and marvelous things these cities can offer, but I don’t think I wanted to acknowledge at the same time the presence of pain in this place.

My apartment building south of the downtown loop, protected by two security guards, surveillance cameras, scan-key access and bolted doors. I’m warm. I’m comfortable. I’m attending a school whose tuition discourages more potential students than actually enroll. I’m being taught by some of the most successful professionals in their industries in state-of-the-art facilities. It’s not hard to get comfortable in my bubble and ignore the man that stands outside the 7 Eleven jingling change in a cup. It’s not hard to pretend like the entire south side of Chicago doesn’t exist. It’s not hard to forget that there are thousands of children experiencing lives they don’t deserve.

I don’t want to make a political statement. I don’t know what that statement would even look like and I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say right now. I just know that I’m painfully aware of the presence of suffering in my current neighborhood, let alone the rest of the world, and I have no idea what to do about it. There is so much evil and pain and sadness and tragedy and death occurring right now, this second. But what am I supposed to do? What am I called to do? How can I make a difference in this ginormous place? Any effort I exert in one specific area neglects all the others. Realistically (or perhaps pessimistically) speaking, my small contributions are mere drops in the bucket, grains of sand on the beach of Lake Michigan, cheap phrases in an infinite list of cliches. I’m at a loss for what I can offer. There are over 8 million people in the urban-Chicago area and I’m just one person. I feel incredibly small.

I serve a large and powerful God who knows every thought in every head in Chicago tonight. This is so far from the world he intended to create. My God is mighty to save, but right now I’m having a really difficult time trusting in His perfect plan and timing. I don’t know what I should do. I feel like everyone is trying to make a statement to raise awareness for a particular cause. About the environment. About the government. About the economy. About our educational system. About the upcoming election. About social security. There are so many problems that we’re trying to address and fix. It’s depressingly overwhelming. I don’t know where to begin. I don’t think anyone does. I have faith that the Lord will both provide and redeem, but in the meantime, what should I be doing?

I realize this was heavier subject matter than I typically post, but it’s something that’s really heavy on my heart right now. I’d love to hear thoughts and advice (emails are great). Most of all, I’d appreciate prayer. For my heart, for the people of my neighborhood, for the people of Chicago, for this beautiful world we messed up. I want to celebrate and acknowledge the wonderful things the Father’s been doing in my life, but it’s important to me that I don’t get so caught up in the sunshine and roses that I overlook what’s going on around me.


1 Comment so far
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Your heart is where it belongs. You have had fantastic parents. Keep looking up.

Comment by Grandma

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