Today my Trotter's sandals proved their worth once again. I walked on and off no less than five buses, down more blocks than I could say, and in and around three museums. It is my last month in Chicago and I'm trying to capture her beauty and life as much as I can.
As I rode the bus in between museums I stared out the windows at the ornate architecture of the beautiful, old skyscrapers that line the streets. Intricate carvings, beautiful stone, elegant workmanship evidence in every turn and arch. I learned a bit more about these buildings while visiting The Chicago History Museum, and saw skyscrapers as yet another form of art in an exhibit featuring them at Museum of Contemporary Art.
At the last museum on my agenda I wandered through their gardens first. A man slept, stretched out on one of the benches beneath the trees that surrounded a beautiful fountain. After almost a week of temperature near or topping 100, today was a blissful 77. I'm sure the gentelman taking a nap was appreciative of a cool sleep.
I made my way into the Art Institute of Chicago. It was the first museum of the three that actually had a line. I'd been there many times before, and therefore made a beeline to their current special exhibit on Lichtenstein. I am, of course, familiar with his "comic book" style art, but I really enjoyed his landscapes they had displayed there.
After a quick stop for a meal, I boarded the bus to take me home. It was crowded so I stood in the aisle, clinging to a strap hanging from the ceiling for balance as I stared out the side window as we sped up lakeshore drive. I didn't mind the view. The ride was a microcosm of the city: her people crowded around me shoulder-to-shoulder and nearly silent, the brilliant architecture behind me, and the Lake - glistening blue and dotted with the white triangles of a hundred sailboats - rushed by in front of me as the bus ran express up the shore. I have never felt as "at home" in a place as I do here.
Soon, people were disembarking at every block as we neared the end of the line and there were only five of us left aboard. The bus stopped, which is not odd, and the driver got off, which is very odd. After the very-long bus backed up and a few minutes of questioning we discovered there was something blocking the road.
I was near the back of the bus with one other woman and she sighed and said something about being anxious.
I'm used to smiling and nodding and then ignoring the people around me on public transit. It's the way things go. She kept talking though, and I listened. I don't normally. Blame the delay, but today I did.
She had just had an argument with her teenager daughter. She had asked her daughter to do something, and when she came home found that rather than doing what she was supposed to be doing, her daughter had instead decided to re-arrange their home (which included painting a few things). While part of me finds that situation rather hillarious (and will probably be so to this family one day as well), at that moment there was a stressed out mother sitting across from me. I asked a couple questions but mostly just affirmed that it sounded incredibly frustrating. She said this daughter was the youngest of four kids, and that none of her others acted like this and she didn't know what to do. She sounded so . . defeated and tired.
And then, while this is an instinct I almost always squash for a myriad of reasons, I asked if I could pray for her. Her eyes lit up and she asked, "Are you a Christian, too?" I told her I was, and then crossed the aisle to sit beside her, asked her name, and placed my hand on her shoulder and prayed for her. I prayed that she would both receive and extend the grace of God. That she would be blessed in her mothering. That she would have wisdom and patience and strength of mind.
And the bus was still stuck at a standstill. We moved to the front to get some more info. They eventually moved us to another bus, where this woman and I sat near each other again, and we talked some more - about our churches and our lives. How she tries such and such with her daughter and it doesn't work. I pulled out my "works with teenagers" credentials and offered a few suggestions while trying to assure her that perfection is not a requirement of parenthood.
Eventually we made it to the end of the line and we parted ways. I'm fairly certain I'll never see her again this side of Heaven. I'm thankful for that moment, when my introverted self who is skilled at ignoring the crowd pressed against my shoulders was able to join in with a sister-in-Christ and be some encouragement in the midst of a stressful day for her. I am thankful for that gentle nudging in my heart that persists despite the fact that it is most often ignored.
I made my way home, exhausted and with aching feet from the busy day. Despite the exhaustion, I am thankful for the time to soak in more of this city I love and for the chance to learn a little more about the beautiful, broken and vulnerable, moments of humanity.