Have you ever been really sweaty and hugged someone else that is really sweaty? Sure, it’s kind of gross and yes it might smell a bit. But in doing so you embrace someone (very literally) in a raw and real way. As you probably saw in person or read about in our bulletin, our Crossroads Runners laced up their shoes and traversed 26.2 miles through this great city. They ran through the Gold Coast and Pilsen, Chinatown and Lincoln Park. The one thing that our runners had in common with the other 40,000 – whether they were black, white, yellow or brown – is that they were all interconnected with their fellow human family. One race. When you have so many people committed to the same thing, everyone seems a little bit more like a friend and not someone on the other side of the city or the other side of politics or whatever sides you happen to take. They’re simply another person struggling just like you… working hard just like you… enjoying the little wins just like you.
Likewise, when a group of about 25 OSP members took Ogden Ave. south and west to North Lawndale for its annual 5K and were packed into the Lawndale Christian Health Center like sardines waiting for the downpour of rain to stop – again every race, religion, gender and age represented – it dawned on me that this is what we need. Races. We need more of them and we need more participation. You can learn more about a neighborhood by doing one quick 5K then you can from 100 news stories. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside so many people in North Lawndale for the last several years, and yet I still learn something new every time I go there. This past NL5K I saw so much.
I saw lifelong residents cheering on strangers from their front lawns. I saw a high school drum line voluntarily show up on a Saturday morning to motivate us and keep our beat going (do you know how much teenagers like their sleep?). I saw OSP members visit this historic neighborhood for the first time and end up high-fiving the rows of people surrounding the finish line. I saw hugging and hand-holding, laughing and wincing.
So why do I bring this up? Do I really think that a couple of 5K runs will instantly heal this city and this country’s many wounds? Probably not. But more to the point and I suppose more realistically, I think the only way that we can begin to soften these barriers hardened over time is to simply hear someone’s story or to see them in action.
Then the next time you hear the phrase “young, black male” you think of Javontae – a hard-working, ever-charming goof that has insecurities and joys just like you did when you were 18 – rather than some faceless data point.
Or next time you hear North Lawndale or Inglewood or Garfield Park, you don’t think “that neighborhood over there”, but rather “isn’t that the place with the strong community roots and extremely friendly people that go to work and spend time with their family just like me?”
Maybe if we can put a story to the “other side” we can relate more closely to those in our human race.
Vince Guider wrote a beautiful reflection last week called “Just Show Up”, and I would take his great point one step further, “Just show up and meet somebody.” You’ll never truly know about someone or someplace until you experience it firsthand.
So if you’ve been looking at the North Lawndale Kinship Initiative for the last couple of years, I suggest that you find a fun and low-threshold opportunity to simply meet some good people and learn about what the community has to offer. It might just get this city one tiny step closer to peace.
If you’ve been here at Old St. Pat’s for more than a couple years, you no doubt have felt the impact of Joanne Gresik. Joanne has been the office manager (and has worn so many additional hats over the years) for Old St. Pat’s for the last 26 years. She is the kind of person who doesn’t like a fuss made over her, and she has kindly requested that no celebration or thank you party be made. We of course keep trying to find ways to get around her wishes because she has been such an integral part of this OSP family – and really a major contributor to the foundation and continued life of this community – and we want to express our gratitude. So, Joanne, no grand parties and no farewell speeches. But please know, as both an OSP member and a part of this staff (which you helped build), how much we appreciate everything you’ve done. We’re going to miss you and we wish you well!