A vast concrete wonderland it appeared to be, that windy city not unlike Winnipeg. The atmosphere was a combination of slightly foreign culture and familiar tragedy. Skyscrapers towered over slums like silent lords looking down on the peasants, lake shores sparkled and green canopies waved in the breeze. A city built from the bricks that were carried on the backs of the bones that the buildings now lie on top of.
Welcome to Chicago, Illinois.
I fell in love on the bank of the south-western tip of Lake Michigan, cradled by water-breaks on either side of me, in love with the city and with the person that persuaded me to go to the city in the first place. It was then, on the second day of April of the year nine and two thousand, that I can trace back to as being the most important, the most life changing, exciting day of my seventeen years of life as of yet. Because prior to that day I was living but I was not yet alive. I have heard it said before that the best way to recognize what is right in front of you is to take a step back. This is what happened in Chicago.
It was a sweater day at the exit of March when our train arrived, warmer than home in Manitoba but still crisp as spring can be. My fellow youth, our sponsors, and the rest of the passengers departed the train onto the station platform with a lack of grace that can only be the result of twenty-one hours in the cramped confines of a passenger car. The weather outside looked threatening and though we had to travel several blocks to reach the hostel we were planning on staying at, we dared to outrace the elements on foot. Now that may have been a poor decision because, after two blocks of exploring the unknown streets of the city, the rain began. This was not a summer shower, for it was spring after all, this was a torrential downpour. Our jackets, suitcases, and especially our shoes were soaked! Fortunately we reached our destination without a member of the group floating away in the river that flowed down the street only to disappear into the drains built into the curb. My first impression of the city definitely was one of respect and awe. I noticed the immediate display of mankind’s power in the majestic buildings that seemingly shook hands with the clouds and the beautiful gardens and cobblestone walkways that we passed on the streets. My weary eyes witnessed the romanticism not the ruin we came here as a group to help repair. As the sun went down my fellow travellers and I slept off the burdens of our travel.
The view from our third floor window the following morning was one of blue sky and sun, with a few dark clouds gathering in the east. These clouds warned of a storm on the way but instead of paying attention to that, we rejoiced at the tulips blooming and the spring sunshine. Later that day it snowed several inches of fluffy white powder that melted by sunset, a brief reminder of home. We’re here collectively as a church youth group to work...