Okay, so the past few days have been interesting, to be sure. It’s not that I’ve lost my faith in people, but you can be sure that my welcoming Chicago smile is accompanied by a wary eye. I have to preface this by saying I have never felt unsafe or in danger here – Chicago is a great, safe city. But there are things about cities that are just quite a bit different than the wide open spaces of my childhood.
One of my biggest passions (and don’t be confused – it does get me into trouble sometimes, but it is not a major downfall) is people. I love people – their stories, history, and dreams. I like to come alongside a person and understand how they would feel loved, whether that’s remembering a name or making a point to cross paths routinely. It’s not a big surprise that people like to be appreciated, recognized, and valued. I love to see the light in their eyes when they are.
Well, this passion has brought me into some unique encounters… I just wish they were with women and not older men. When I say older I mean the magazine man at the end of the street who is probably 75… and the man I met under an awning in the rain who was probably in his late sixties. He was a nice sort – business man who was living large on Lakeshore Drive.
I am always very upfront with who (and whose) I am. This guy was a native Chicagoan, so we chatted about the city and I talked about how grateful I was that I had found a faith community. It’s absurd to me that these gentlemen wouldn’t pick up these OBVIOUS clues I lay down. But, Lakeshore man was asking for my number and a pizza/beer get together by the end of 3 minute conversation. WHAT? I just don’t get it. I mean he was nice, but without exchanging numbers I told him we’re sure to run into each other, being from the same neighborhood. The funny thing is – for all of you who say “Of course they talk to you – you’re a sweet, Midwestern blonde with a happy face on!” Well, to you I say that on this particular meeting I was wearing a blue poncho that covered every bit except my face, with my backpack protruding like a hunchback behind me.
I love a delightful conversation… I truly do. I would rather eat soap than pass up someone who wants to tell me about their life. It’s one of those thing that give me energy – after listening and making connections, I feel like my day has purpose. The next time I see George, Chris, or the nameless Italian lady on the bus on the way to work we’ll smile. We recognize each other and I’m instantly encouraged in those little connections. I’ve said this before about Poland, but I sincerely am starting to see Christ’s creative work in the lives of these strangers. In church this past Sunday I learned about the long conversation that the Lord has with His creation. I have no idea what the Lord is doing, how He is pulling or prodding, and how He may be softening a heart. Yet, regardless of where they are, God calls me to the same service: love. Conversation is a way to show and spread love, because people understand the interest and investment it is to let a stranger in.
Now, the slightly scary addition to this story is what happened this morning. I was getting on the subway a little later than usual, because I was going to a program trip instead of work. Everything was normal going through the turnstile and down the stairs. I scanned the crowd gathered to wait for trains and scoped out a spot and waited only a few moments for the train. As I stepped on, I felt pressure behind me (not uncommon when crowding on to the el), but I thought I felt someone inside my purse. I turned around just in time to see the edge of my wallet going under this large man’s coat. Ah! I can’t tell you what went through my mind but all that came out was, “Uh, excuse me?” in a really weak whisper. I’m not even sure that he heard me, but just as the subway doors were about to close, he gave it back. Yeah! First of all, with all my faith in people, I never expected this movie-scene to play out on this Monday morning. Second, I was so disoriented that my reaction wasn’t in the slightest how one would act when your identity is about to be stolen. Third, he gave it back. This is the part that is so confusing to me… he could have easily left and I would’ve done nothing more than stand stunned as the subway pulled away from my little life in the white wallet.
God had already softened that man’s heart before he even took my wallet. That’s the only thing I can figure – God had control over the situation and his unlikely response. Well, I have to process a lot more from everything I'm learning about the Old Testament, relationships, and life. I'll have to pick up on that later.