Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Major Discernment

What have I let myself in for?

I had a chance meeting two weekends ago, at Call to Action http://www.cta-usa.org/.
A woman named Brenda Myers-Powell--this is her real name because I bet she wants the publicity--is looking for space in which to help women in prostitution find their way out. Given the situation with Priscilla and my feeling that sooner or later she'll be back, I thought we should talk.

Brenda and her friend and business partner, Stephanie, met with me on Sunday. The house was still under construction in the interior design project, so we went around the corner to El Tio and sat down over a meal. We were discussing the possibility of using my house as a place to do this work.

At first we talked about doing something residential. "How do you feel about deadbolts on your bedroom door?" Stephanie asked me. Not good.

The conversation quickly shifted to a drop-in kind of setting. We talked about 12 hours a week, always two people in charge on the premises from a pool of Brenda, Stephanie and their husbands. "We will treat your home like it was our home, and we will treat you like our sister because you are our sister in Christ," they pledged.

But I'm still scared. I called my craziest friend, who told me about the knife fights she used to break up when her drop in center for young people, including gang bangers, was located next to Sarah's Circle, a drop-in center for homeless women, including women in prostitution. "Their pimps will be watching 24/7," she pointed out. I already have that problem thanks to Yup-yup, Priscilla's (I hope) former pimp. I'm very afraid of it getting worse.

I'm taking this week to discern the idea. Not just consider its wisdom but whether it's the kind of folly God calls you to or just straight-out folly, period.

One point that came to me quickly is that my house is my home, not a program. I think Brenda and Stephanie and I have yet to see whether a Catholic Workerish vision of hospitality and a model of a social-service style program are compatible. A friend has already pointed out to me that I've got some good things going with the neighbors already and maybe it's worth it to let them grow. (I'll just add that I'm well aware this idea won't be a big hit with the neighbors and could strain relations with people I want as allies.)

Another feeler that may yet be explored is whether the space at Su Casa vacated by Genesis House might be a possibility. Right now Brenda and Stephanie can't afford rent, but Genesis House wasn't paying the rent they were supposed to be paying, so what if we all went in with expectations that the new occupants wouldn't pay rent now but might in the future? Or that the new program would repair and maintain the space that Genesis House trashed?

I have yet to put out a feeler to Su Casa about this because they were burned badly by Genesis House and likely don't want to even think about anything with any connection to them. (Brenda and Stephanie want to do something independent of Genesis House but the mere fact they "graduated" from the program back in the day might be a source of tension with Su Casa right now, I don't know.)

Anyway, for you friends and readers who might have responses to this or want to offer your thoughts as I take my week of discernment about what's next, I welcome your comments. Thanks.

Shooting at St. Joe's

Apparently a young man who lives above the bar near St. Joseph Church was shot twice in the stomach on Sunday night around 11 p.m. The shooting took place right in front of the church. He was taken to Cook County Hospital and she hears he's doing better than he was when he got there. The shooter was arrested, she told me.

My source for this news flash is one of the women who led the failed coup attempt at the CAPS meeting last spring. I ran into her this morning on the Ashland bus. She's probably in her 20s, tall and heavy-set, with a friendly, open face. She was taking her four-year-old daughter to the UIC clinic. She sat with me in the seats right in front of the door and kept an eye on her little girl, who sat up front by the driver. "She doesn't want to sit with me," Coup Leader said placidly. When I got off at the Orange Line, she moved back up to the front.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Starbucks Sighting

This morning a crushed Starbucks coffee cup appeared on the sidewalk in front of my house. It didn't come from me. I never buy Starbucks. As far as I know, the nearest one is at 63rd and Kedzie. Hardly creeping gentrification, but it was a surprise.

I scooped it up and dropped it in the stolen dumpster in front of the boarded-up house down the block. The dumpster's address, painted in white, came from 53rd and Morgan, about half a mile east and a little south.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Academic Victories!

Dawn did her exhibition on Wednesday morning. I went to Big Picture and found my way upstairs to her advisor's room. Dawn was there in cream-colored pants and a short grey jacket (sort of bolero-style), with her hair pulled back, nervously chewing gum and talking with a couple of classmates, fussing a little with her materials, joking around a little to ease the stress.

Both her parents came. Yeah! They were a little late, and then we had to wait for the principal to bring them some evaluation forms in Spanish. He was teasing one of the guys in Aurora's class who had done a less-than-stellar exhibition the day before. "I'm surprised you can sit down today," he said. The boy's friends giggled. Apparently the kid's mom was on a tear after his.

Not so with our gal Dawn! She was a little nervous at first, but eased in and grew confident as time went on. She gave different parts of her talk in Spanish and in English (though she occasionally had trouble finding the right word and had to switch mid-sentence, which her advisor and the principal want her to eliminate from her next exhibition). I even asked her a question in Spanish! She was talking about something (now I forget what) and she paused like she was done, and I said, "Por ejemplo?" and she gave a couple of examples. At the time I knew what was going on but now I've completely forgotten.

Her stuff on E. coli was pretty good and she wants to continue learning more about bacteria and viruses next quarter.

She talked for a solid 45 minutes and didn't get rattled when we asked her questions. Her dad asked a number of questions when she was explaining what she's learning in music class.

At the end, all the spectators shared one positive thing and one critical piece of feedback based on what we saw. Afterwards Dawn, her parents, her teacher, the principal and I sat down and talked about what her learning goals will be for next quarter. She's going to start some computer course in math. I'll be interested to see what it has to offer.

Afterwards, her parents gave me a ride to work. I asked how Joey's presentation on the knee and the MRI went. It sounds like it went fine--the part I understood most clearly was when his mom told me the teacher said something like, "Wow, that was really good. Did your parents help you with that?" Apparently Joey said, "My parents don't speak English. My friend helped me." We were all laughing about that. I want to hear about it from Joey himself.

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