Wednesday, July 28, 2010



by Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;

but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;

the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—

And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,

the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,

with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,

with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness

Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said

at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t

believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture

served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all

and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure

while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds

and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me

for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon

disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;

barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else

to take it personal too.

My roommate introduce this poem to me. I just love it.

I hope you do too.


Today I was faced with a sombering reality of how different my life and childhood has been then from the kids I work with everyday.

I have become almost best friends with Ms. Cassandra at my Boys and Girls club. She works in the front office but she's really not the receptionist or secretary. Often times I find myself hanging out with her during the day between playing with the cadets and checking on my students because she is just a wonderful person to talk to. She's in her late twenties/early thirties and has two kids and she's not married. She says she did her life backwards and she's going back to school now.

Well, today I was sitting in the office and Ms. Carolyn, the program director, and Ms. Cassandra were talking about a shooting in the neighborhood. And then they started talking about Thomas, a summer youth staff worker, and how he didn't come into work.

They then started talking to other people about where he would be. And they called another member into the office to call a friend to see where he was.

I know that if I was working at a camp in Riverside, California, my first thought would be that the worker slept in or he was too lazy to come to work.

But that's not the reality here in Roseland, one of the top three most dangerous neighborhoods. The reality is that he could have been shot. Or who knows where. And knowing Thomas, he probably just did not feel like coming into work today. But that's not the first thought at all.

My heart just breaks for the kids of this neighborhood and I ask myself why am I so lucky? Why was I able to be born with soft hair? Why do I have the means to go to Chicago for the summer to just serve? Why am I so lucky to be able to go to college? How did I come from such an amazing family that loves me?

And I don't want to leave. I want to stay here and not just bring 12 or so white volunteers to this club for one week. I want to live here so that it becomes the norm. I want to be able to reach out to them as a staff person rather then a temporary worker.

Because at the end of this week, I have to say good bye. To Ms. Cassandra. To Ms. Carolyn. To Marcus. To Timothy. To Noelle. To Faith. To Demetrius. To everyone.

Because the reality is I might not see them ever again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I just love my boys

This was taken during our morning exercises. They were showing me how they did clap push ups.

Memorial Church of Christ

I loved my group this week. They were just so generous. This was the first week my Boys and Girls club was having a snack bar at lunch and my volunteers stepped right up to help them out even though it was so hectic.

They also helped fix a thousand brochures that the club had printed.

We got to go on a field trip with the club to a pool down the street.

The kids absolutely loved ganging up on my volunteers to try and take them down.

On the last night of debriefing, I told my group that its nice when I get to the end of the week and I'm telling myself that I can't believe its already Friday instead of thanking God that it's finally Friday.

They were just a good group of volunteers to hang out with all week.
I have one more week left. That means one more group. One more prayer tour. And a lot of lasts. Last days at the club. Last going to a soup kitchen. It's just almost over. I'm still trying to figure how I feel about it all.

Cuuuuuuuubbbbs game.

This past week Katie and I co hosted a group from Houston, Texas. On Wednesday, they took us to an Astros game that happened to be taking place at Wrigley field where they played the Cubs. They had originally bought tickets for about 38 people but they only brought 27 people. That means they had extra tickeys not only for us but also for some of our friends. So Katie and I were able to bring people along.
I was super excited because I had definitely wanted to be able to go to Wrigley field and I didn't even have to pay. I love black and white photos so here is one of the field.

It had such a old time- feel. Really different then what I'm used to at Angel Stadium. They even had these musicians just walking around.

Since we had extra tickets, I invited Austin. At first he told me that he had to work. But then he texted me later to see if there were still tickets available. No one can pass up a free cubs game :)

Katie brought about 5 people because she actually knows more than the one person I know who lives near or around Chicago. This is Pauline, one of her friends from school

Apparently the birds around the field are trained to know when the end of the game is so that they can eat all the leftovers that the crowd leaves. Too bad the game went into extra innings and people were still there.

Austin was telling me that they change this sign for each team that comes. Get it cause they were playing the Houston Astros. And then last week it said something about being "philling" because they were playing the phillies.
And then there's me in front of the field. The Cubs lost. But it was still fun. I was glad that I had my hat to wear, too. Thanks mary :)

Lincoln Park

Last Saturday, Sarah, Elizabeth and Meagan had the opportunity to go and explore Lincoln Park.

The one goal for the day was Molly's cupcakes.

These aren't just any cupcakes. They deluxe cupcakes, with some kind of center, delicious frosting and the actual cake of the cupcake is quite delightful.

This would be the Cookie Monster cupcake. That is cookie dough in the cupcake. It was amazing.

Going to Lincoln Park was very different then what I have been doing lately. All summer I have been around kids or around homeless people. When we started to walk through the houses/condos/townhomes there were a lot of young adults and older adults having house parties. It was game day for the Cubs and that always means a party even if they lose. It was just the part of Chicago I have not experienced but its the part of Chicago that is most expected.
There was this sign. Actually, there were a few of these signs and it made me laugh. Because even though the partying wasn't allowed on the streets or parks, there were probably about 25 people in each front yard every other house.

Friday, July 16, 2010

63 stairs

One of the ministry sites that I go to at night is the CCO free store. Its on the fourth floor of a building. And there are 63 stairs to get to the door. I may or may not count them everytime I climb them. (Its actually just something I do. Count stairs. I can't figure out why...)

Any way the building itself is associated with Cornerstone Community Outreach which is the ministry of Jesus People U.S.A ( a local church). On the floors below it is a shelter for families and women. The free store is just what it sounds like. On certain days, they open it up for the people in the shelter to come and take clothes, shoes, bags or books for free.

Our groups come and help organize.

These used to be the windows in the building. And unfortunately I did not get a picture of any of the new windows. But because of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, these brick windows were taken out and instead they got windows that can be opened and allow light to come into the floor. It still gets hot as heck up there but I can imagine it being a lot worse if it was just these windows. (This window is in the stair well of the 63 stairs).

They get tons of donations. And this is where they are stored until people go through them.

And here is just one row of the clothes that are there.
I'm gonna be honest. It's by far not one of my favorite places to go because there is not necessarily a lot for groups to do if there are no hangers. However, this past week when I went with my group. I told them we could leave (because time was about to run out of the meter and it is definitely one of my fears to come back and see a big fat ticket on the windshield). But the group wanted to stay and finish using all the hangers (there were somehow a lot that night). I was shocked.
So instead I went down the 63 stairs to put more quarters in. But I didn't grab the leader's keys and didn't realize this till I got back to the van. So I went back up the 63 stairs, grabbed the keys, walked back to the van, put the quarters in and returned to the group (after climbing the stairs for the fourth time that night). I keep telling myself that at least I'm getting my exercise somewhere since I have no time for a real workout but it doesn't make it any more fun climbing those stairs.
One of the hosts here (Nicole) and I have a joke going about those stairs. She made fun of me for counting them. And it somehow ended up that I kept getting this ministry site to return to each week.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lou Malnati's

Part of the experience that groups have coming in is trying different ethnic restaurants in the city. We have Indian, Thai, West African and others.

And we have pizza. Chicago style. Deep dish. At Lou Malnati's.

But this place isn't just any pizza place. It's in the Lawndale Community, which is not an affluent neighborhood at all. It was opened as the tenth store of the chain. As such, Pastor Wayne Gordon, of Lawndale Community Church, encouraged the brothers to make it their tithing store. They make no money from this place and are always in the red. They also hire workers from the Hope House, which is a recovery place for people in the area.
I have not been able to go to the pizza place too many times, but everytime, the waiter, Josh, has just been amazing. He's so friendly and always joking with the groups. Here my group started playing a card game and he is watching. Too bad we had to leave shortly after this so he wasn't exactly able to join in.

The decoration in the place is so fun.

Even Michael Jordan graces the place.
And here is the sunset from the window.

Standing by the sign.

It's just such a cool idea for a restaurant chain to open a store in a neighborhood that it knows it won't make a lot of money from.

Grrreat Day.

On Saturday, I had just a great day.

First, Kendrea and I decided we were going to Shedd Aquarium. Kendrea is from Arkansas and she makes me laugh so hard with her little southern girl phrases and mannerisms. My summer would not have been the same without her.

We stopped first at Portillos.

I got a Chicago Style Hot Dog: It comes with tomatoes, onions, relish, mustard, a pickle, hot peppers, a vienna dog and sesame seed bun. It sounds like a lot and maybe not so appetizing, especially if you're somewhat of a picky eater (alisha....), but its delicious.

We stopped by these funny looking staues first. Yes, they are headless. Its called Agora. They were made in Poland and brought to Chicago, the city of "many funny pieces of art in public".

Here we are waiting in line. It wasn't too bad of a wait. The couple behind us offered to take our picture. It was really nice of them.

I took a million pictures of fish. But I'm not going to put all of them on here. Just this one. You can thank me later for not boring you with my fascination of taking a million pictures of the same thing.

This is us with our map and everything X'd out because we went everywhere. But you can't see the X's. The girl that took this picture laughed at us. I'm quite alright with this. We felt accomplished and felt the need to document it.

And then I took her to my favorite place in the city. It was such a beautiful day. It looks fake even. We had fun with the continuous taking picture mode of my camera. Again, I won't post all of them here. Just this one. (Aren't the clouds just incredible?)
And then I left Kendrea and met up with Matty P. We were co-hosts this past week and our group got tickets to the White Sox game. They had two extra tickets that were already paid for and they brought us along.
I met Matty on the redline and we met the group at U.S. Cellular Field.

I got a phone call from my friend Jenny during the game and walked out to talk to her since it had been so long and saw this beautiful thing from the top of the ramp. It was definitely worth it.
It started to rain during the game and all the people just left their seats to sit under the overhanging. We were in the nosebleeds and had cover. It was great. Of course, since it was Chicago, it stopped 10 minutes after is started and everyone returned to their seats.

2-2-2. (Jenny, it just wasn't the same without you)

My group was awesome that week. I would hang out with them again.

And then Matty P and I with the city in the background. Which you can't see at all. But you can see us.

It was just a great day.
P.S. White Sox won.

Lake Michigan

So something that the midwest definitely does not have is the ocean. I'm usually not a beach person but I do miss it. Its probably one of the first things I'm going to go to when I get back to California.

However, Lake Michigan isn't too bad. Its 118 miles across so you can't see the other side. At all. Here's a picture. Go ahead and try.
Its a great place to take stalker pictures of strangers.

And to take groups when we got some time to kill. And what's better then a jumping picture?

I also take groups here when its time to eat lunch. It makes a nice backdrop for a meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips.



Growing up, validation is something we often seek from our peers. We want to be accepted and just validated.

During the school year, as an athletic trainer, I looked for validation from the athletes that I worked with. This usually came with them knowing my name. Or them trusting the advice that I gave them.

This summer I have found that I am searching for validation from youth group leaders, 6 and 7 year olds, and homeless guys.

Youth group leaders come each week with expectations. (And some even come with no expectations.) Either way, I want to be as accommodating as I can be. I want them to be able to say "Wow, Jane, our host, really cared about our group." Cause I do, I care about all these students coming actually wanting to serve the city. I know going on short term missions growing up has definitely shaped who I am. It's weird being on the other side and actually facilitating the trip, but I have learned so much from each group that has come.

Each week that I take my group to the boys and girls club, I find myself gravitating towards the cadet boys. They are aged 6 to 7 and I definitely seek validation from them. I just love them. Such as these two boys. They just want love. They have so many nicknames for me, such as Mrs. Goldilocks or Mrs. Smiley. After four weeks I think the majority of them even know my real name. I want to take all of them home with me. They have just touched my heart in so many ways.
At night we go to different ministry sites. One of them is Epworth Men's Shelter. This is a gym that Cornerstone Community Outreach rents from a UnitedMethodist Church in Uptown. On average, they have about fifty guys sleep here each night. During the winter, there are more guys. But during the summer, its always been about fifty-two ish.

I have been lucky enough to go back there almost every week I have been here. And really, for some reason, when some of the guys come up to me and recognize me from talking to them the week before, it is such validation.

They really are great guys that come here. It was definitely weird at first that we go to this place just to make conversation. We don't necessarily serve or clean or anything. Just conversation and attention to individuals that may not ever get it during the day.

So that's where I currently seek validation. To me it means that I am doing something right. That I am where I'm supposed to be right now. Even though some days are hard. And sometimes I just want an ocean beach. Its really just what I need to be doing right now.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Shower Guard.

CSM Chicago has a partnership with North Park University. We stay in their dormitories. They let us use their campus for Worship Night. We can go into some of their buildings if we want to have an inside debriefing somewhere. And all the groups that come in use the lockerroom showers.

Now shower times for the groups may be during the morning time slot (6:00 am to 8:00 am) or the evening time slot (8:00 pm to 10:00 pm). During this time there is no one from the North Park University actually in the building to I guess patrol the area. And so the hosts get the wonderful job of having shower guard duty.

So we get to sit in this empty hallway while the groups use the shower facilities. We find ways to entertain ourselves. In my case I bring a book. Or I journal. Or I just look at the walls. Its really not that bad because its actually time that is designated just to sit. It gives me a lot of time to just think then and process how the week is going. It sucks having to wake up at 5:30 when you have the morning shift but once you get there. It's the easiest thing in the world to just sit.
It's also fun to say hi to the groups and see them. I also feel at home in this hallway because NPU's athletic training room is in this hallway. And all the coaches of the different sports have their offices here. So if I went to this school, I would be spending a lot of time down this hallway anyway.
When I told my past group what I had to go do, the pastor, who's very sarcastic, commented "Well, are you armed? Do they give you a weapon?"
Yes, pastor, I am packing.

My crew.

These are my co-hosts.

This was taken about nine-thirty at night after Worship night (which is a big celebration night among all the groups that come in. We have group games, Mexican food catered, fellowship, worship, and a speaker comes.) Needless to say from setting up, running around and cleaning up we were all a bit sweaty and tired. But we still got together to take this wonderful group shot.

I love the people that I work with. They are so encouraging and just on fire for God.

We took a lot of pictures that night. Of course, at the end we had to take the customary "funny" picture. Those are always the best.

It's funny because throughout the week we don't get to see each other because we are all with our different groups. This weekend though we get 'staff fun day,' which means on Saturday we're all going on some adventure that our directors haven't told us what we're doing yet.

It will be fun because we'll get to hang out. But I wouldn't mind a day in my pjs...