Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Depends On the Part of Town…

Over the last 17 days, I have been working with the North Central Chaplain Recruiting team, mostly answering phones, visiting schools, and doing database work. Mixing that with my Summer Ministry and my work for the Central Midwest District of the UUA has been why the blog has been a little quiet of late.

Yesterday, my last day, I took the train home from the Great Lakes Naval Station to my apartment on the campus of the University of Chicago. I also had to go by the grocery store on the south side of Chicago to pick up the cake for my wife’s birthday, and because of timing I had to do it in my uniform.

I have written before about how it sometimes feels to be in my uniform in the neighborhood around the University of Chicago. This area is fairly affluent, with many who are upper middle class in income or better. I have commented that, when I am in this neighborhood in my uniform, few people will even look at me, and no one will speak to me at all. I see the eyes in the distance lock on the uniform, and then turn away to look at the ground or the sky as they pass me by.

Yesterday, I had a similar experience on the train, as I traveled through some of the more affluent neighborhoods just north of Chicago. If my experience had ended there though, I probably would not be writing this reflection.

I had to change from the METRA trains to the CTA (known as the EL) trains in downtown Chicago, in order to get to the recruiting station where I had parked my car, in a predominantly African-American section of Chicago. Leaving the METRA train and going down into the subway of the RED LINE was like walking into a whole different world. I have noticed that before, but never in this way.

As I stepped onto the platform in my uniform, an older African-American woman took my hand and said “Thank you and bless you”, and then began to tell me about her nephew who was currently serving in Iraq. I missed that first train speaking with her.

As I waited on the next one, an older African-American man came over and asked me how long I had been home. I told him that I had last served overseas in Bosnia, and that I was training to be a Chaplain. He got tears in his eyes and told me that when he was in Vietnam, his chaplain had been wonderful. I missed another train.

When I finally got on the train and sat down, an African-American man in his thirties asked me again how long I had been home. He then told me about his brother serving as a ranger in Afghanistan, and how the whole family was praying for him, and for all of us.

People would pass by and say thank you, or just lay their hand on my shoulder.

When I got off the train and walked the two blocks to my car, an older African-American man sitting on a milk-crate at the intersection stood up and snapped me a parade ground salute that would have done a member of the Old Guard proud. I shook his hand, and spoke with him for about five minutes about his service in Korea.

Different parts of town… different connections with the reality of war.

Yours in Faith,


Leave a Reply

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: