Yesterday, as I was poring over some photo editing, Tina called out from the front room, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” I asked.
On the sidewalk in front of our place, there was a long line of kids from the school down the street. They were shout singing ‘I’m walking on Sunshine’. It’s the kind of thing that brings a joy to living on this block. Seconds later police sirens drowned out their voices as they tore by practically jumping the speed bumps.
“It’s the kind of thing that makes living in Chicago, living in Chicago,” said Tina. “One second, happiness and joy. The next, you don’t know if someone was shot.”
Later in the day, we were at the gym. In the locker room to my right, there was a black man covered in tattoos with arms the size of Italian loaves. On my left, there was a shortish, stumpier white guy wearing a Yarmulke. He appeared to have finished his workout. He draped some kind of traditional Jewish shirt looking thing with tassels on the front over his head and was tying it on the sides. The next moment, he was looking at his phone. He raised it to his ear. He said, “I’m sorry [so and so]. I’m running five minutes late. I’ll see you at the school [pronounced shool].”
When I came out of the locker room, these are the stories Tina and I tell each other.
Later at the grocery store, there was a man in a wheelchair with truncated arms and legs. It appeared that his hands came out of his armpits and his feet came out of his pelvis. With a smile on his face as he controlled the wheelchair with joysticks located by either hand, a man with the grocery store logo printed on his shirt followed him with a cart helping him reach the handicapped man’s groceries.
In a split second, I wanted to reach out to the man in the wheelchair. Give him some encouragement that didn’t sound like I was pitying him. It happened so fast. I didn’t say anything.
What could I say that wouldn’t sound douchy?
On the way out of the grocery store, I passed a card table with a sloppily hand-written sign on red poster board that read something like, “Please donate to the Christian Women’s Battered Home.” Around the words, there were glittery stickers. Maybe a child made the sign.
On the table, there was a plastic fishbowl full of Blowpops. I threw a couple bucks in a box with a slit cut in the top and took a sucker for Tina.
A little further away, there was a black man in a wheelchair asking people for change. There was a cat on a leash crawling around his lap. My heart fattened up in my chest and felt like hundred pounds. I fished for one more dollar and gave it away.
This may resemble where you live, too. And if it is, isn’t it great to live in places that constantly remind you of the diversity of humanity?
Consider yourselves lucky. Some people live and die in a place that doesn’t offer richness in differences. Or they think that living in places like this hurts traditions. People that live in cities, where thoughts lean liberal, where education and ideas are priorities, are lands that compromise good, wholesome values.
City life are saturated places of all that is good and all that is not. Who knows if the dollars for battered women are going to those who need it? Doesn’t it suck that we need a place for battered women to escape to?
There is an infrastructure in Chicago that appeals to people of all walks. The way I see Chicago is the way I used to see the church, a place where all — no matter what — are welcome. There was a day when I figured out that the church’s “all are welcome” slogan is the furthest thing from the truth.
You’re only welcome if you think a certain way. So why advertise all inclusion if that’s not your intent?
In the city, you’re not welcome if you hurt people. You’re not welcome if you steal. But if you don’t agree with the way someone thinks, there are people who do. And you will find them.
And that’s a huge difference.
Most people — but not all — are welcome here. It’s our unofficial slogan. And that’s why I love it.