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The Windy City

Kari and I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago this week.

It was a very quick trip. We got there late at night, spent the entire day in a photographer’s seminar that didn’t get over until after sunset, and then we drove out just as the sun was coming up, so, I guess you could say we didn’t see much of the town. It was 20-30 below with the winds whipping the way they were, and everywhere we went we had to walk. Needless to say we didn’t trek very far. We did ride our first ever subway together, and we had some authentic Chicago Pizza, which was fun. I even managed to snap a few pictures of the skyscrapers on our way out of town. It looks like a very happening, vibrant, bustling town, doesn’t it?

But there’s a very real part of Chicago that you won’t see in my images…

Because the forgotten Chicago, in the shadows of those tall buildings, was the homeless man who marked us 3 seconds after we walked onto the street, asking for a little help, telling us one story after another, his breath creating a fog with the strong smell of wine. He’d just jumped out of a taxi cab a few moments earlier, and here he was telling us that he’d served his country, and he needed something to help keep him warm on such a cold night. The next night we were bundled up as tight as could be in our winter jackets and gloves, running for the subway. I left my camera in the room because I didn’t think it would be wise to tote it around so late, but looking back now I wish so much I had brought it, because the forgotten Chicago was the guy lying flat on his back at the bottom of the stairs, wearing next to nothing, his feet bare and numb to that deadly cold wind, his gaze just a vacant stare into nothing. It showed me that a camera can be a powerful tool of communication, whether that the message was meant for you, or as a way to speak to my own heart. Instead of shooting images of pretty buildings and castles in the sand, my focus should have been a little more down to earth…Christ had that figured out, didn’t he?

Kari was the first thought on my mind, keeping myself between her and him. My second thought was trying to discern the why’s.. Why was this man here? Why did he pick this place? Was this just part of his game? I stepped around him and a cop was standing there, calling in for an ambulance to come and cart him away. Zooming through the tunnels in the subway I began to think about my natural reactions…

Here we were in a big city, completely on the defense. I didn’t know my way around, and even got turned around in the subway. The Elliott boys pride themselves on never, ever being lost. I couldn’t have pinned any tails on any donkeys, i didn’t know up from down.

And I was worried about Kari, protecting her, keeping her safe. I was ready to scrap.

Then that morning, breakfast had cost us over $30.00 for nothing more than whipped oatmeal, and the hotel charged us double what they said they would for parking. All of this had turned me skeptical… to a fault.

Then I remembered the verses that my son had just learned a couple of weeks ago, the same verses I’d posted here just a few days ago.

It got me thinking that I must not have really understood the passage, because I certainly missed the point in Chicago. so i’m posting that verse again, more for me than for any of you. To remind myself what the right reaction should be, and what real love looks like… Real love is when the words become action.

‘Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it.’ (Rom 15:2-3)

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