Last Walk In Chicago

 

The predawn light creeps in early to the condo. This old air mattress has been good to me since Thursday night. I have slept, despite all of the thoughts that race through by old noggin’.

At some point on Tuesday, July 2, we’ll head back toward Richmond. Lake Shore Drive, U.S. Highway 41, and interstates 65 and 64 lie ahead.

Life is a blur.  The seconds are always ticking. They never stop.

 I remember, my wife, the Commander Supreme, and I driving our oldest daughter, Lauren, to Chicago years ago. She was starting graduate school at DePaul. Lauren says it has been fourteen years. I had lost track of counting those years. 

Remember life is a blur.

A lot has transpired in those years.

 Lauren earned her master’s degree from DePaul. Started a career that allowed her to successfully work in assorted capacities with three different non-profits. 

Made life long friends, met her husband, married, and now is the mother to Caroline also known as (momma my nose is running), and Hudson (the block tower crasher).

Now, a new chapter in the book starts. Goodbye to Chicago and your comfort zones, Raleigh here we come. 

I quietly move about the condo. Finally organized and equipped with my hand me down camera from our son-in-law, Doug, and my iPhone, I head out for a walk. 

While far from professional, I like taking pictures. Architecture in Chicago, interests me. I have no expertise, but something usually catches my eye. I point and click.

During the last few years, I’ve learned my way around this Lincoln Park neighborhood. I can still get lost, but I can find my way back to 1947 North Hudson. The River Shannon bar at the corner of Hudson and Armitage is an easy landmark.

This morning, I’m focused on doors and doorways, and how the angles of early sunlight might cast upon them.

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I’m on Lincoln Avenue near Ranalli’s a good pizza restaurant. It was near here that I encountered a wayward soul who asked for spare change. 

He was polite and seemed overly humble toward me. I was cautious, lots of questions speeding through my mind.

With some confusion, he showed me an Indiana ID. He was hungry. 

Our interaction was brief. I expressed my reluctance to help. My heart was conflicted. But, I opened my wallet, and I gave him a dollar. 

I interpreted his body language as disappointment with the dollar.

I walked off. He walked off.

Now, my conscience was all over me.

You should have done more.

You should have been more cautious. 

After all you have been blessed with, you only managed a dollar?

What kind of so called Christian are you? 

He was a big, young strong kid. You’re lucky he didn’t rip your wallet right out of your hands. What were you thinking?

I kept walking looking for photographic opportunities—better known as distractions to quiet my grumbling self-talk.

 The ground I covered failed to silence my internal voices. I worked my way back to North Hudson.

Inside the condo, chaos was about to erupt. Our son-in-law was waiting for a phone call from the moving company. That call came earlier than expected. 

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Bedlam, havoc, pandemonium prevailed.

Lauren, the two grandkids, the Commander Supreme, and I had an escape plan. We left Doug to work with the movers. 

We headed into the city for breakfast and a series of distractions while the movers worked their magic.

All I can say is that I’m thankful our daughter was driving.  If I had been driving, the ears of the grandchildren would have been scarred for life.

We found a place near the famous Water Tower for breakfast.

The amount of food we were served was sinful. I thought about my earlier encounter with the hungry young man. 

I looked into the faces of the waitstaff and table clearers. Each was so polite and courteous to us. I wondered about their lives. I wondered how they survived with their pay. I wondered how many jobs they string together to make ends meet.

After breakfast, within walking distance, we checked out a park, a farmers market, and the most dangerous retailer for grandparents, American Girl.

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From there, we loaded up again and headed to the world famous Cloud Gate, better known to visitors as the Bean. The bean shiny, bright, and reflective has become a Chicago icon, always a photo op.

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Crown Fountain is a part of this park as well. On this hot, humid sun drenched morning, this place was full of kids and adults taking advantage of the spraying water. Caroline and her Nahna took off their shoes and enjoyed the water too.

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Lauren checked back with Doug, and the movers had made lots of progress. It was safe for us to head back to Lincoln Park.

As Lauren drove back into the quiet streets near their condo, I noticed a large construction dumpster outside a home. A tired looking pickup truck was parked beside it. 

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I saw the owner of the truck scavenging through the dumpster. He was pulling out any large piece of metal he could find. His truck bed already contained some other bulky metal items. 

Once he had a full load, my guess is this man would head to the scrap yard to collect money for his finds. 

I wondered about his life— scavenging construction dumpsters for metal to convert to cash. I wondered how many days he does this? I wondered if he had other employment? I admired his determination in this cycle for survival. I wondered how many others in the ‘city of broad shoulders’ are out doing the very same thing.

My conscience started working on me again. 

What did Jesus mean when he said, “You will always have the poor with you.”

While the speed of life might be a blur for me at times, the societal challenges that surround me are not a blur.

The poor are not a blur. They are very, very real.

I don’t think Jesus had blurry vision with regard to the poor, the weary, the downtrodden, the burdened.

I’m not so sure about my vision. I can write about these societal challenges, but what am I doing to help?

In the introduction to Lynne Olson’s book Citizens of London, she quotes a 1945 speech from American Ambassador, Gil Winant. He was speaking at the dedication ceremony for a monument that honored Americans who participated in the D-Day landing in France.

Olson wrote:  “The ambassador declared that if man was to survive in the perilous new period, he “must learn to live together in friendship,” to act “as if the welfare of a neighboring nation was almost as important as the welfare of your own.” Winant acknowledged that the accomplishment of such goals would be a supremely difficult task. “But,” he added, “So was D-Day. If that could be done, anything can be done—if we really care to do it.”

Perhaps, we could solve the cycle of our societal ills in that D-Day reflection—“anything can be done—if we really care to do it.”

That’s the question for me and maybe for you to answer—do we really care to do it?

Remember, Jesus cared.

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