Monday, December 21, 2009


I went to a wedding in Kentucky this weekend. On the drive down there, I stopped at a place called Moo-licious—it was some sort of farm with lots of interactive things to do and see revolving around cows and cheese. Well, apparently it was closed for the holidays, but we still went in and got ice cream even though it was about 20 degrees outside. Two hours later in my car the remaining ice cream still had not melted. And my car was really warm so it was not because it was cold. I have no idea what it was I actually consumed. I guess it is the South, maybe it was shortening? Who knows? When Rebecca and I arrived back in Chicago we stopped at a grocery store on the south side, relatively near our apartment. It was a huge store, and lots of people were in there. We were the only white people and I barely noticed because it is just part of my life now. However, everyone was staring at us (could have been because I was wearing pajama pants), seemingly shocked that we were at that grocery store with them in that area of town. Like we didn’t belong, and everyone knew that except for us. The extreme segregation in Chicago is something I have not experienced in any other city I have lived in. And I really have no idea how to handle it. It seems to just be the way of life; people of various ethnicities know where they are supposed to live and they stick to it for the most part. That does not sit well with me at all, but I feel powerless to change it. Something I have really seen living here is how entrenched and institutionalized problems can be. So much so that they become normal life and not problems because people don’t know life another way. That is how it is with all sin in general, you desensitize yourself to awareness of wrong; the hope of change and “what could be” is buried under the normalcy of wrong behavior over time.

One of the other Fellows (Sean) just got back from the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne. He was telling me about a session Jim Wallis spoke at involving the verse about the poor always being with us. Apparently, Jim interpreted this to mean we should always be intentional about the poor being close to us. They should be in our hearts and minds, and this should make us active in advocacy and working for justice on their behalf. An interesting interpretation.

Needless to say, this all is a lot for me to chew on this holiday season. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Hopefully I will see some of you while I am in California for the holiday

Love from the windy city,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The following are two poems that have really moved me the last few weeks. They are by a German man named Rilke in his work "Book of Hours: Love Poems to God."

I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing --
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones --
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

You, darkness, of whom I am born --

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the dark embraces everything;
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations -- just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Winter is upon us here in Chicago. It is currently snowing and sticking on the ground. Funny looking trucks are roaming around dumping bright green salt on the roads, and driving into the inner-city to work is a bit more precarious this morning with the pot holes filling with icy wet slush. At least it’s not super icy yet. And new snow makes everything look cleaner. I am sure that is not going to last though.

I am getting used to my life here as the “other.” This is an interesting concept I have talked with some of my co-workers about quite a bit. It seems that no matter what ethnicity or group is the majority in a given situation, there is always this idea of the “other.” A person who looks different, acts different, speaks different that may or may not be a part of your daily life, but is existing somewhere near you. They represent a story your own story and life have never been a part of, and you don’t quite know what to do about it when your paths cross and you have to interact. Everyone feels uncomfortable, but there comes a point where you hear a joke of a story from “other,” or see “other” do something that you resonate with. This leads to conflict or cooperation. And you both decide whether a relationship is formed.

We attended a community organizing meeting at work last week. It was the second one we attended, the first happened our third day of work here. The first time I knew no one, felt acutely aware and kind of uncomfortable as one of the only white faces, didn’t really know what the food was, and didn’t fully understand the issues the community was discussing. A lot has changed. We walked in this time, knew and greeted at least half the people, happily ate the food and engaged with the issues being discussed. I walked out feeling really proud of this. It is the kind of success that cannot be measured on paper, but feels like a significant deal nonetheless.

Also at work on Thursday we received a shipment of about 200 black hoodies from an organization I had never heard of. They gave them to us for free and I didn’t see what the big deal was. Well, turn them over and they have Obama’s face in rhinestones with the word “VICTORY” in enormous letters across the back. We were giving them away and staff members were laughing and wearing them proudly. So if you see some bling-ed out jackets when you are walking around the neighborhood, they were probably from us here.