After a three-year stay, we’re leaving Chicago’s South Loop. We moved here after downsizing, after selling our five-bedroom Victorian in Oak Park in 2017. It’s been an enlightening and rewarding time in the city.
There was something liberating in getting rid of 80% of the stuff we had accumulated while raising kids. In our two-bedroom, city apartment we welcomed the simpler existence. In the building where we lived, we’ve been the oldest folks among the renters, sharing elevators, the parking garage, mailroom, exercise room, rooftop deck and other amenities with a diverse and much younger group of people.
Oak Park is racially diverse, but the South Loop is even more so. And the latter community is a young world, with many college students, people starting their careers, artists, musicians and parents of young children. Two new schools opened across the street from us; one a CPS, K-8, and the other a private, Christian K-12. Once the COVID crisis has passed, the blocks around here will be teeming with kids of all ages flowing to and from those educational institutions.
And then there is the lake: I bonded with her quickly after we arrived here. I’ve walked 4-5 times a week, 6-10 miles at a time, along the lakeshore. I’ve trekked south past 41st Street Beach, north as far as North Avenue Beach, and west to the end of the Riverwalk. I’ve taken these hikes for the spiritual and physical exercise, but along the way I came to so appreciate the lakefront’s beauty; I’ve shared a lot of photographs with family and friends.
I also began a different kind of work while here, drawing on the thousands of pages of journals I’ve compiled since the early ’70s. Having retired from the community development and policy arena, I write less about policy, politics and community change and more about what I’ve learned, and what I’m still trying to understand, about living my faith in a complicated world with a conflicted self, each driven by interests that can divert one from doing what the Lord wants.
I appreciate the relative anonymity I’ve experienced here in the South Loop. It has afforded me time to pray, reflect, walk and write. It put me close in a new way to the energetic upsurge in the racial justice movement, intensified as it was by the broad exposure of dramatic incidents of police brutality. I’ll never forget the beautiful intensity in the marches that rolled down State Street right below our windows, directly past our front door.
I’ll cherish the sights from our rooftop at night — the movement along five different train lines, the lights of the skyline, and the sunset beyond the upright bridges to the west.
This week, we will move about eight miles west, grateful for our time here, and back to Oak Park, the community that during these years in the city never stopped being home.