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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Prayer Walk

This morning I went on the weekly prayer walk sponsored by the Port Ministries. The walk was started by Deacon Coleman, a longtime employee at the Port and a neighborhood legend. I hear he's now working in Roseland but still living in Back of the Yards and hopes to make it back for some prayer walks when he gets settled in his new job.

Brother Jim, a Franciscan who lives in Berwyn but comes to walk every Wednesday, is now the linchpin of the walk. He wears a habit he sewed together from old blue jeans about 20 years ago. He's a six-foot-plus white guy walking around in a denim habit in 90-degree weather. Our third walker, Walter from St. Joe's, observed that we got a few more stares with me along today than Brother Jim was racking up. (All it takes is two X chromosomes, I gather.)

Brother Jim has been going out walking and praying in all kinds of places for a long, long time. He used to work at St. Malachy's Parish in the Henry Horner projects. He's still walking through Dearborn Homes regularly--everybody knows him over there. I gather he's pretty new to our neighborhood--it's the first time in his ministry that a lack of Spanish has been a burden to him--but he has great presence and connection.

We stopped to pray in front of a couple of houses on my block. One where the shots were fired recently, the other the house where there are squatters. It was 10 a.m. and the block was very quiet. Only one young guy was out on a bike while we were making our way down the block. I prayed at the house where the shooting happened in thanksgiving for the safety of everyone who lives there, especially for the little girl, and for peace within and outside the house.

What interested me was that later, we were over by Sherman Park, and we ran into Mr. Worrisome, who lives in the house where I prayed that morning. Regular readers will remember Mr. Worrisome as the guy who was always bothering me with marriage proposals and such when I first got here. Now that I'm friends with his sister, his niece and his nephew, he's calmed down a little bit. Maybe he's also calmed down because he has a girlfriend....

We came upon Mr. Worrisome and his lady friend sitting in the shade along the edge of Sherman Park. Mr. Worrisome recognized me first. "Hey, I know where you stay? What you doin over here?"

I knew who it was from the voice and crossed the street. Brother Jim and Walter came along and we all introduced ourselves. We got to talking with them and Lady Friend said she could use some prayers for her health. Brother Jim was all over this and asked Mr. Worrisome what he'd like to pray for.

Among his prayers, he offered, "That she'll marry me." At least this time he meant Lady Friend, not me. Thank God for that!

So we all joined hands and prayed, and Brother Jim gracefully managed to keep marriage out of it but pray for both of them and their needs. He did a good job.

"You really touched me today," said Mr. Worrisome. Despite the liquor on his breath, I think he was pretty much for real about it. Lady Friend appreciated it 100 percent.
And it's the nicest I've felt about Mr. Worrisome since I met him.

Sometimes in these situations, prayer can be used as a confrontational tactic. Big groups praying out in front of a drug house send a pretty clear message--shape up or ship out. This prayer walk isn't really like that, and that's part of why I decided it was time for me to go. Because I don't know the New Kids on the Block here, I'm just mad at them for messing things up. They're not like Yup-yup to me, who's a pain in the ass but he's my pain in the ass in some kind of weird way. I struggle to believe in their humanity. That's why I wanted to go pray in front of their house.

Brother Jim and Walter helped me to remember they are just people after all, even though we didn't see them or talk to them this morning.

After we got done with Marshfield Avenue and Sherman Park, we walked pretty far east, to 52nd and May, where Jim and Walter had heard there was a shooting last night. Four young men were hurt badly and had to go to the hospital. I haven't found a thing about it on the news, which doesn't surprise me.

It turns out we picked the right spot on the corner, according to two church ladies who walked up and joined us in prayer. I'll call one Ella because she used to lead her old church choir. She wore an SEIU t-shirt and sang "Precious Lord" in a key (or keys) I couldn't follow in the slightest, so I didn't try to sing along. Her companion told me she has two sons who are Catholic--one is in the service and the other just got out of jail. I'll be praying for Roy and Beau tonight.

We walked down the street a bit and there were a few people sitting on their front stoop. They wanted to know when the Bread Truck was coming back. They take a vacation in September because they work extra hard feeding kids during the summer, when many aren't getting free lunch. Even though the city provides meals, they're at summer programs or in places the poorest kids may not be in, so the Bread Truck hits the streets.

"They be all over the place," one stoop-sitter commented, "47th and Racine to 55th and Ashland." My friend by 63rd and Kedzie knows the Bread Truck.

The folks on the stoop talked a lot about the shooting. Not super-great information, but more than the none they would have given the police, I imagine. It was a testament to the trust the Port and its Bread Truck inspire.

The lady on the stoop asked if we would come inside and pray with her mother, who is homebound and on oxygen. So we went in. She was reading the Bible, book of Revelations, chapter six, verses one and two, where the lamb is breaking the seven seals:

"Then I watched while the Lamb broke open the first of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures cry out like thunder, 'Come forward.' I looked, and there was a white horse, and its rider had a bow. He was given a crown..."

Oxygen Lady asked Brother Jim what the verse meant. He took a minute of verbal tap-dancing, and then asked what it meant to her.

She thought for a minute and said, "If I do what the Lord tells me I will get a crown."

Jim went with it. We prayed for her that she would know God's presence near her whenever she was afraid. I think she let a tear or two fall near the end of Jim's prayer. They looked like good tears. Ella had followed us down--she knew her neighbors--and she prayed the Our Father for Oxygen Lady with us as her backup pray-ers. Then she sang a little more.

I should go out with those guys more often.

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