Chicago

Friends Within the Enemy

The other day I hopped onto the ‘L’, to head west from my home to work to pick up my car.  The train was fairly empty, so I found a seat quickly and settled in for the brief ride.  Across the aisle and a few seats behind me sat a guy listening to the music on his phone loud enough for all to enjoy.  Another guy about the same age as the other was sitting right in front of the first, after a bit he turned around and mentioned he liked the music the guy had and was wondering who it was.  For the next few stops the guys listened to other artists they both liked, talked about a sporting event that was happening that night, and talked about how they both liked to play basketball.

One of the guy’s stops came, he stood up and asked if this was the other guy’s stop as well.  The other guy replied no and started to say where he was from, but quickly paused. The two looked at each other realizing they were from different gangs, top rivals of each other actually, noted by where each were from.  This was a pivotal moment, suddenly the new-found friend was actually the “enemy.” After a moment’s silence the first guy stuck out his hand to the other and said, “You’re cool bro.” The other grasped the guy’s hand replying, “Back at you. Be safe.” The first then moved his hat to the side, assuming the role of gang member and stepped off the train.  Two stops later, now in different territory, the other young man stood up shifted his hat as well, only to the opposite side, and stepped off.

 

Friend on the Corner

One of my favorite parts of living in this neighborhood where I work, go to church, and mentor is bumping into the youth and/or their families on random occasions.   Several times my fiance and I will see one of the guys in the program walking to get somewhere. We’ll pause and offer him a ride. Sometimes it’s declined, often though he’ll hop in and as we drive we’ll chat about the day, where he’s headed, etc. I’ve run into one of the girls I mentor studying at the library, seen patients from the health clinic where I work along with their parent at the grocery store.  All of these encounters are fun and a reminder of us being a part of the same community, all living life close together.