5 Positive Things (2)

This week’s positive things: happy people’s (and sad people’s) music, meeting a bunch of young clergy, and awesome community development organizations on the South Side.

1. The Eels

I am in a good mood. And when I’m in a good mood, I like to listen to a selection of songs that I got from a pair of albums  I own by The Eels. I just really like this music because it’s terribly happy and full of love. The first album of theirs that I got, Hombre Lobo, has my novel’s themesong on it (Tremendous Dynamite) and I just rock out to it all the time. I basically just want men to think of me like all the girls that these guys sing about. It’s the music of being crazy about somebody. And I love it. So right now my themesongs have lyrics like “My loosing streak is done” and “Hey man, now you’re really living”.

2. The Dark Knight Rises Soundtrack

So on the other side of this is the sad people’s music, which I also like a lot–not because it makes me sad, but mostly because it’s so GOOD at it. It’s excellent music. All of these most recent Batman movies have been done by Hanz Zimmer, who (according to me) is the God of Movie Soundtracks. It’s got a great blend of new motifs and the old ones so that you can listen to all three albums pretty seemlessly, and then also get the progression of the moods of the movies.

Also, the movie itself was pretty phenomenal. I saw it in regular theaters about a week ago, and I’m seeing it in IMAX today.

3. The Cottage Grove YWCA

As a part of Jumpstart, we have opportunities to check out local organizations that serve the community. We get to go and ask questions about what they do, how they provide the services, where the money comes from, and what they need to do to get it. The Cottage Grove YWCA is on 66th and Cottage, just actually across from Aldi. They have all kinds of fascinating and really, I interpreted, useful programs. There’s economic empowerment, young parent’s program, and sexual violence support services. Just listening to the women who ran the site, I was already in love with the idea of working there. It was focused on a kind of familial model–a model which I often see in organizations that have an underlying religious basis, it has a sense that “we are all in this together”, which social service organ

izations often lose. I hope that in the near future I might be able to volunteer with them, because I really liked what I heard about all their programs and services–especially the young parents program and the economic empowerment program.

[Linked is the Metropolitan Chicago site.]

4. The Gary Comer Youth Center

This place was like a dream come true–or maybe heaven, or maybe both. It was a weird heaven in which services that are desperately needed are funded with the same desperation, where youth centers come first, and where rich people use their money to do awesome things that really matter. Wandering around there was as if the whole world worked properly for once. Or, maybe not properly, but at least in the right direction. The facility is insanely well designed. There are so many resources–resources that I didn’t have in my high school, resources that keep these kids off the street, but not just “keeps them” but “makes them have better things to do”.

There are art rooms and classrooms and music rooms and video recording rooms and gyms and game rooms–and everything is beautiful. There’s plenty of natural light, but the windows are sparse and controlled. It’s not easy to know who’s inside. It’s safe. Best of all, there’s a farm across the street and a phenomenal garden on the roof. The kids take gardening classes (there’s an adjacent, partner organization that has a middle and high school) and then they can cook and eat the produce that they grow.

An interesting thing that we discussed involved the program’s desire to charge children for membership: for the year, they’re required to pay twenty dollars for access to the center. Now, twenty dollars is absolutely nothing for the kind of facilities that exist here (they are also served three meals a day). The point is that they have the experience of paying for something. There was a similar practice at One!; the students had free meals Monday and Friday; they paid one rupee on Tuesday and Thursday, and two rupees on Wednesday in order to have a meal and an egg. The sense of responsibility keeps them coming and instills their own personal pride in the actions that they take: it’s not just a hand out, I paid for it!

Anyway, going there was like this crazy dream come true. Now, if only they thought it would be a good idea to hire a chaplain at a place like that, I’d be set for life… 🙂

5. Young Clergy Women Project

So on Monday, I was invited via the Divinity School to attend a reception of the Young Clergy Women Project, who were having a conference here in Chicago. I attended and had a really good time chatting with all these young women who were ordained and serving congregations. From my point of view, it really seemed like they were all just together. They had solid jobs, and a chance to bond with other people like them who were dealing with the same issues. Many were settled down, had husbands or children. It was really neat to sit around and chat with all these women, who were just those few steps ahead of me, and showed me that there was at least some stability in the future. I had a great time chatting with them and discussing life. It helped me reconnect to the MDiv program for sure, since I was feeling somewhat disconnected from it over the summer. This and getting to visit these awesome centers (together with some awesome music) have made this week a really decent one.

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