ENERGY, DIVERSITY, LIFE. The early morning walk to the Clark and Division Red Line isn’t as bad, when I notice the rest of Chicago seems to be awake, rising and shining for the day ahead. I am part of something special. I am part of a community. I catch the train, sit down and look up and all around me. I see beauty, I see brokenness on the faces of these strangers too. My heart aches, yet also fills up with hope. There is something to lean on. The faith that lies within me, there is a God full of mercy, grace, compassion, and love for all people. I pray under my breath, “Please fill that person over there with hope today. Give me the strength I need to finish this day strong, and love the people I am surrounded by well.”
I walk the street of Ravenswood Ave, a popular street to walk in the morning. Often running into refugee participants on their way to the office, we greet each other and with the little English they have, do their best to say good morning. It makes me smile, and in return I do my best to say good morning to them, in their native language too. But I have learned, connections are not limited by a language barrier. Connections may go far deeper with a tender smile, maybe a good laugh too. Perhaps it is the time invested with each other that makes all the difference too.
I walk into Heartland Alliance, ready or not, a 9+ hour day full of logistics, strategy, prevention, intervention, confusion, chaos, and advocacy awaits. My Heartland Alliance internship has been one of the most challenging yet foundational investments within my journey of life so far. Easy? No way. Worth it? Absolutely. Gaining an awareness of the brokenness in systems, in people, and the privilege I have and hardships other face has been an ache to the soul. I have felt nauseous, agitated, and flustered so often, realizing the extent of the brokenness in this world. The discrimination, the unlawful treatment, the shallowness of broken systems, it must be frustrating for everyone. The long hours spent in Public Aid, Secretary of State, Social Security. The people who go unnoticed or unappreciated are often the ones who seem rude, ignorant, and sassy. The breaking down of company cars, only to make moving a couch into an apartment for an incoming family even more difficult. Why do all the apartments have to be the highest floor up? Why is there only one housing coordinator for a 4 person job?
Why does it seem like when people are trying to help this world, there is resistance from all kinds of angles? This is a mystery to me. But then I remember. My heart aches, yet also fills up with hope. There is something to lean on. The faith that lies within me, there is a God full of mercy, grace, compassion, and love for all people. My understanding of why all this brokenness is secondary to knowing intrinsically within that God is a good father. Again I pray under my breath, “Teach me to forgive those who hurt me or my participants. Bring peace to the staff members at Heartland. Fill them with joy. Fill this world with your joy and let all people taste freedom”.
I get back to the Heartland office, only to pack my bags and say goodbye for the day. Time to rest up, for another big day tomorrow. Though and challenging, the reward surpasses all. I thank God for this day, and rest my eyes. I reflect and realize as I lay my head on the pillow, it starts with simply loving the person in front of me, no matter who. Tomorrow awaits a new day, a new challenge, and new opportunity to learn, a new moment to love.