Another Day on the Streets of Chicago

Another day on the streets of Chicago, proof that life isn’t always easy. Today was a pretty rough day. My body ached, my bruised palm hurt, and my fingers bled. And you thought a yo-yo was a toy. Yesterday I was hustled by some kids, today I was robbed. Well, not really. They tried to. Four eight year old kids decided it would be fun to spend their Saturday running up and down Michigan Avenue harassing people. First they tried to use my spare yo-yo’s, against my will of course. Then they took off with the yo-yo’s. I trusted they’d come back, and they did. Next they tried to take off with my money. They grudgingly came back. For the next hour and a half they kept coming back and bugging me. Sometimes you just want to strangle kids.

Time for a side thought on kids. Why is it that people have children when they don’t intend to give them all the love and attention they deserve? I’ve thought about having children before (yeah, scary to admit, but it happens when you’re my age and dating), and frankly, the thought frightens me. That’s a lot of responsibility, bringing another life into the world. Especially a world that’s as messed up as this one. Why is it that so many people don’t see children as a responsibility? They just have children. The kids running rampant on Michigan Avenue are an example. A family on the Metra today is another example. The mom and dad continually yelled at their young daughter for nothing. Clear and simple verbal abuse. Not only do people go ahead and have children without considering the responsibility, but parents continually neglect their children. Look at Columbine and ask your own questions. I just don’t understand how people can treat life with such disrespect.

Another thing I’ve been wondering about is work. Maybe it’s just my idealist young self, but so often I think that when looking for a job, people should do what they like. Work shouldn’t be boring, it should be something you enjoy. As a college student, it’s easy to say that, and easy to try and achieve it. But is that a reality for everybody? Just think of how a society works. Are there enough enjoyable jobs out there so that everybody can do something they like? Somehow, I don’t think so. Unless there’s a whole lot of people out there who really like being garbage men, train conductors and McDonald’s cooks. So how idealistic is it to say that you should find a job you enjoy? In a way, is it selfish? Of course I’m not about to give in and start working some job I hate, but it is something to consider when I get on one of my idealistic young man kicks.

Speaking of work, or rather a lack of work, the unemployed homeless were also in my thoughts today. When I head downtown, I end up taking a 45 minute walk to the corner I yo-yo at. You pass a lot of people and interesting sights during a 45 minute walk. You also pass a number of poor people. Some are begging, some are sleeping, some are performing, and some are selling papers. All of them are downtrodden, most of them are dirty, they’re usually hungry, and they all have their own story.

What confuses me is that in the midst of million dollar skyscrapers, limousines, three piece suits and big money businesses are people who have somehow managed to slip through the cracks. They’re on the streets and they’re begging for their next meal. I have things so nice and easy out in the suburbs. The grass is green, the sun is shining, there’s food on the table. These people don’t even have a table to put the food on.

It seems to me that the poor could certainly use some help. I know there are shelters and organizations that do help the poor, but when you walk past four or five people who could really use some help, writing a check to the homeless shelter just doesn’t cut it. Maybe they’re really not that bad off. Maybe begging on the streets makes really good money. Maybe they’re just too lazy to get a job. But maybe not. Jesus commanded us to take care of the poor. That seems to be one of the most overlooked commandments in the Bible.

So how can we help? Tossing some change in their dirty Dunkin Donuts cup is a start, but somehow I don’t think that’s enough. I mentioned that some of these poor people sell papers. Here in Chicago there’s a newspaper called Street Wise. It sells on the streets for $1, from venders who are poor and trying to lift themselves up out of the gutter. Only 25 cents of that dollar goes to the paper to pay for operating costs. The other 75 cents goes to the vender. The paper’s motto is “Empowering people to self-sufficiency through employment.” I think they may be on to an answer. So what can we do? Well, buy a copy of Street Wise for starters. And secondly, while you’re doing your shopping and enjoying your self, don’t forget that not everybody has it so easy. Donate your change and help somebody out. Or go a step further and drink water instead of a Coke at McDonalds, and let a homeless person have the buck you would’ve spent on the pop.

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