"The real voyage of Discovery lies not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes"
Marcel Proust

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Driving With a Mission

It’s Labor Day weekend and some families are feeling the urge to get in one more big road trip before the days of turkeys and Christmas trees. Our family? Well, a 40-minute drive to Kansas City down Interstate 29 was fine for us. It’s been an active summer and we’re ready to settle in for the winter.

 One trip I took this summer was one down very familiar highways to a very unfamiliar place. My daughter and I traveled to the south side of Chicago on a church mission trip to help serve the people in the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago. In the week we were there a young woman was killed by gunfire just a few blocks down from the church where we were staying.

From St. Joseph we traveled 2 of the 3 highways of which I’ve written about: Highway 36 and Interstate 55. Not much had changed on either highway since I’d written the audio tour for MO and Ted and I had written the book for Illinois except for a larger expanse of wind turbines through central Illinois. But on my way home from our mission trip the road looked different to me.

During our week on the south side of Chicago we met people who found pride in their community even though they knew that outsiders talked of their neighborhood differently. They knew their neighborhood had gangs and individuals that caused trouble in their homes and on the streets, but they didn’t want to pack up and leave the place they had always called home.
Some outstanding community members choose to encourage others in any way possible. Many in the community wanted to work but had lost their jobs as industries closed. Others felt they had no means to leave.

Roadways conjure emotions just like sidewalks through gardens or sidewalks through garbage. The roadways in these neighborhoods had signs that said “speed hump.” I was used to seeing “speed bump” not “hump.” You could tell the neighborhoods where speeding had been a serious problem. Speed humps are much wider than bumps and in some neighborhoods they were lined up and down the street in every block.

After sharing our time with the community, we hit the highway again and traveled south down I-55. As I drove a suburban full of teenagers back to their safe neighborhoods, clean homes and loving families I thought of those we had just left behind. Some wouldn’t have come with us if we had asked. They would say they were needed there. It was their home and no matter how dangerous their neighborhood would become, they would be there to keep guiding their young people in the right direction. I marveled at their strength and their optimism in the face of poverty and violence.

We weren’t leaving them behind. They were on a path and had chosen their road. They chose the road to recovery. 

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