Chicago! - My Family Travels

“Hey Chicago, what do you say?  The Cubs are going to win today!  Go, Cubs, go!”

Now, as I am reading this to myself, I am thinking two words, Youth Works.   Numerous memories came to mind.  Chicago, Illinois, kids, youth, helping hands, and support.  Yes, I know Chicago is not what people would call an outstanding vacation spot, but with a person like me, who does not travel outside of the state of Missouri, Chicago was outstanding to me.  From a small town where buildings are two stories high, the Sear’s Towers came to me as a huge shock, along with many of the incredible buildings in Chicago. 

My youth leader, Aaron Baker, took his youth group on an experience of a lifetime.  Youth Works was what our working site was called.  Basically, our small youth group were seperated into groups and joined with teens from Minnesota.  We worked an entire week in our working field.  For example, we were either helping in a nursing home, planting a garden for the homeless, or working with kids. 

I was working with five-to seven-year-olds in a small summer school located in the terrible part of downtown Chicago.  All the kids were a different race than what I was, but I was treated like I was one of them.  The sad part was how the incredible kids I worked with, could live in such a terrible place or live with horrific pasts.  For example, a little girl named Kelsey was easily depressed.  When I could not give my full attention to her, she would become very upset and cry.  Watching tears stream down her dark face made me feel bad.  A little boy named Angelo was scared to even put his head under water for he was afraid he would not returning to the surface for air.  Seeing his bright smile when he finally had the courage to do it was priceless. 

It made me realize that life is not always easy for others.  I complain all the time about my problems when, really, others have it worse.  On our stay in Chicago, there was a seven-year-old boy who was shot and rushed to the hospital.  I could even look around the city and see all the brightly colored gang signs spray painted on the buildings.  The art work was a way of telling others that trouble was near. 

When I was with the children, they were telling me stories about their lives.  A boy named Travis said that his brother was locked up.  Another child said that one of her family members was shot by a drive-by shooting.  The teacher told me how, just about a week before we came, a little boy was shot playing on the playground.  The kids were willing to open up to us.  We were making a difference just by helping them out. 

I was glad that at the end of my trip, I left a memory for each of those kids.  They did not want us to leave at all.  It was hard on me, but I think it was harder on the kids.  Just to see their smile once again would be incredible.  Hearing them laugh until they cry would make me all warm inside.  Having an impact on someone’s life like that is an incredible feeling.  Chicago changed me in so many ways.  If taking a small trip to Chicago changed me that much, I wonder what else the world has to offer?

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