Tonight after my work day with Little Brothers, I headed downtown to "The Loop" via the El for a meeting with the Education Committee for the Coalition for the Homeless. Since our work with the Coalition on Fridays centers around homeless elementary school students and their parents, it's under the "Education Committee" realm.
The meeting was interesting and informative and it was good to brainstorm some "next steps" and try to find some solutions for some of the problems we are encountering with some fellow volunteers, even though I never met most of them before.
The most interesting part, though, wasn't the meeting but my ride home.
One of the parents from the school we do outreach at every week, Pam, came to the meeting. She herself is homeless, by the federal definition of homelessness. After her husband went to prison a year ago, she and her two youngest children (she has five kids, but all but her 15 yr old and 18 yr old are moved out) had to move in with her mom because she couldn't find affordable housing for them. She told me how she used to sleep on the floor in the hallway but she has since "graduated" to the couch. She also told me about how she spends her days getting up & getting her two kids plus her three young nephews that live there ready for school and then she goes to the Parent Room at the elementary school across the street, where makes the coffee for the other parents and sits all day - she gets a free lunch, hears whatever educational seminar they have for the parents, visits with the other parents, plays with the babies, and heads back to her mom's for the evening.
Anyways, Pam made it downtown to the meeting via a ride from a friend who has a car, but she planned on taking public transit back home. JD, our contact from the Coalition had a bus card for her to use. But she had no clue how to get home. Like, none. Here she is, a Chicago native, and I had to literally lead her home. Since I was going in the same direction (she had to go just one stop further on the train) I offered to show her the way. She didn't know how to put her bus card into the machine to get into the train station. She didn't even know what the Blue Line was - "Is that like the El?" I had to explain the map on the train to her.
I've known for a while that having an unlimited CTA pass put me at an advantage above most people in our neighborhood, but that experience blew me away. I ride a minimum of four buses each day just to get to and from the Little Brothers office and the El at least a handful of times a week, depending on what's going on. Heading down to the Blue Line stop is nothing to me; I don't even give it a second thought. She hadn't been on the El in probably twenty years she told me - "That thing is scary!"
I'm not exactly sure what to do with this knowledge or how to process it yet, but it's opened my mind a bit for sure. I guess I'm just glad to have helped her a little bit, and to have had a conversation with her. She told me that tomorrow she is marching over to her daughter's high school to get the bus cards that she should be getting. This is what we have been working for all year - the rights of homeless students, one of those rights being bus cards to get to and from school each day. By Wednesday morning, Pam won't have to scrape $1.50 up every morning so that her daughter can go to school; she'll be able to put that money towards groceries instead. I guess that's something.
I wish the world's problems were easier to solve.
By the way, I am working on a bunch of blog posts. I've been doing a lot of journaling but not a lot of blogging lately. Lots of deep thoughts and very real feelings going on in my mind recently, but it's so hard to process and put into intelligible words. So, I apologize for that. If you want to pray for some help with my mental processing skills, that would be appreciated.
Much love, my friends. <3