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.

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