I ended up doing things with the youth from the shelter for two days in a row. Yesterday, we went to Christkindlemarket together, and today we went to the Steppenwolf Theater to see the world premiere of the play The Bald Sisters.
Yesterday was great! It was probably the same thing as with skating, which is that people didn’t quite figure yet that Christmas is already here. There were almost no lines for food and drinks, and you could get close to all the booths and see everything very clearly.
It was 55F outside, and it could not be a better time to wonder around. We drank hot chocolate, and gazed at all pretty ornaments,
(Just realized that my yesterday’s post was left unpublished, so there will be three today :))
I saw on Instagram that the previous two weeks of escorting were brutal. My fellow escorts told me they saw up to fifty antis altogether (in shifts). The clinic requested police presents, but honestly, it was a farce.
Today was relatively quiet; there was only one group of four antis with an amplifier. The shocking part was that the police seemed to protect them, not us.
When a guy on a scooter shouted something in the direction of the amplifier, a police officer gestured for him to stop. When antis were done and packed their equipment, they shook hands with both police officers, and right after this group was gone, police left as well. But at least it was quiet today, so I can’t complain.
Also, it turned out that today was the 75th anniversary of the CTA celebration, and if I had known in advance, I would plan on taking a ride in the 1920s train car. Unfortunately, I was already on a tight schedule, but I hope it was not the last time in my life.
It was more for today’s day! After all of the morning /afternoon activities in Palatine, I returned to the city and met the youth from the shelter in the Art Institute.
We were there a month ago, and although some of the youth appeared interested, the field trip was pretty chaotic. I was unsure how things would turn up this time, but to my surprise, seven of the youth showed up, including a couple of folks who were there on our previous Art Institute outing. Another surprising thing was that everybody was very engaged, and we stayed in the museum until it was about to close. I had to answer the same questions they usually ask in Medieval art: where are people of color? And as usual, they shake their heads in disbelief when I tell them that people lived in one town or village throughout their entire lives, and they didn’t know: you mean, they didn’t know there were other places? They thought that people everywhere were like them?
After the Art Institute, I took everybody to the new gelato place. Some people started to walk forward, and our volunteer coordinator told those still there that I was taking them for gelato.
— What is gelato?
— It’s a kind of ice cream.
— Ice cream?! Hey, stoop! STOOOP! She is taking us for ice cream!!!!
We got to the gelato place. When the youth realized they could try multiple flavors, one of the girls asked: can I try all of them?!
The staff of the gelato shop was super-patient, and when the youth got all the flavors they wanted, there was peace, quiet and eternal happiness.
I had grand plans for the past weekend, which ended up being realized for at most 70%. If was a long weekend, starting with our monthly Wellness Friday. I went for what I hoped would be an enjoyable semi-long ride. On my way back, near Montrose Harbor, an older gentleman decided to cross to the exit from the pedestrian lane right in front of me. I had no time to brake, and I did my best to make a sharp left turn so I won’t knock him off. I still touched him, but slightly, so he didn’t fall. As for me, I ended up falling off, although not very bad.
My chain had fallen off, the handlebar turned sideways, and my knee was scratched pretty seriously, but at least I didn’t get a concussion!
Still, it was a bad start to the day. I lost a lot of time fixing the chain, straightening the handlebar, getting back on the Trail, and then taking care of my knee at home.
And then, I could not return to my original plans for most of the weekend. The heavy rain most of Saturday didn’t help either. To be fair, I planned a little bit too much for this weekend, and it is possible that I would have to abandon many of my plans regardless of this bike accident, but I still blame those who do not look to the left and the right before crossing!
The list of good things that happened:
I swam in the lake on the only day when it was possible (Friday)
Recorded an hour-long podcast with Hasura (should go live tomorrow)
Went to the Bridgeport Art Center Open House with Igor
Saw a part of the Chicago Air and Water show (and figured out how I am going to do it next year)
Visited the Glenwood Art Fair
Baked a pumpkin pie and a blueberry pie
Gave a lengthy interview about MAC hosting
Finished one of the five presentations for my fall conferences
I already said it once, and I want to say it again: escorting has become even more emotionally exhausting than before. There are no more quiet shifts. I was looking through my journal, and I was shocked to see the entries where I talk about quiet shifts or just do not talk about shifts because there was nothing eventful happening.
Not anymore. Ever. There are two or three, or four groups of antis each time. They bring amplifiers, and patients have to make their way in between these groups, between come and talk to us on the left, to Jesus Christ told us on the right, right into do not murder your baby on the left of the clinic entrance.
There were several heated exchanges of patients with antis. Several heated exchanges of passers-by with antis, as well as the escorts.
And I do not think we have reached the peak of this hatred yet.
“Do you like the Soth Side?” a young woman in the youth shelter asked me. We talked about her home; she said she is from St. Louis and wants to return there. “What about Chicago?” I asked her.
– Chicago is my second best. The South Side
-Which places do you like on the South Side?
-It’s not places; I like being there. I like how I feel. It gives me good vibes. People are friendly, and I feel good when I walk there and people say Hi.
-I like how you said it! It’s very important to feel good vibes!
And then she asked: Do you like South Side?
She asked with hope in her voice, and I avoided the answer.
I do not know it enough, although Igor took me to tour the South Side landmarks on multiple occasions. It is a foreign land for me; even though people are indeed nice and friendly, I do not belong there. And this young woman is blissfully ignorant of that.
I don’t know what to make out of that except for acknowledging the fact..
The more I think about volunteering, the more I believe that the most important part is not to expect thanks, neither from the people we serve nor the general public. I am not saying people are never thanked for their service; quite often, they are. But it’s important not to expect it. Recently, I was asked why that happens that many people want to volunteer for an important cause right after the crisis starts, but then later, they walk away. There might be several reasons, but often there is a realization that what you are doing is not something glamorous or even heroic, and you are not “a savior.” When you come to help a cause, it’s a job, often not most efficiently organized, with tons of idle time, but it’s a job that needs to be done to make a world a slightly better place.
When I asked her what she thinks an ordinary person can do, I meant something like what should we advocate for? What policies should be instilled? What can be changed in society so that young people won’t end up in gangs? How can we finally stop the shooting, stop the killing? Because it feels like whatever has been done so far, including the Ceasefire and the Interrupters, seems to produce no difference.
When she said: you are already doing a lot; keep doing what you are doing, I thought that she was just dismissive. And then she continued: don’t try to be a God.
I thought about this for a while. I am not a religious person, and I always thought that serving others has nothing to do with religion. But recently, I started to think that maybe it was something with nuns always being the ones attending the sick, running orphanages and schools … Nuns do not expect to be thanked for their services because they serve people in the name of God. And for the same reason, they do not expect to change the world through their service. They just do what they can, and they keep doing it.
And now I am thinking: what could and should be in place of faith for a non-religious person? And can you still selflessly serve others when you have loved ones who are clearly more important to you than the rest of the world?…
As I mentioned earlier, recently, I was re-certified to be a host for MAC (Midwest Access Coalition) and started to host clients. Now, this activity is quickly starting to dominate in all my voluntieeering. I am shocked by how many people come from different states and the number of challenges they face.
Even when MAC helps with hosting, driving to and from, bus tickets, you name it; there are still mounting challenges! Some can’t find a daycare for a child. The bus is late, broken, or canceled. Some people are hosting non-stop, back-to-back. It’s insane. And that’s just the beginning!
For the past several days, I was saying to myself that it’s a new underground railroad, and today I saw that Mayor Lori said something similar: “I’m really thinking a lot about the fugitive slave laws that were passed earlier in our country’s history. We can’t go back to those times”
Speaking about Mayor Lori, she signed an executive order protecting people coming out of state to have an abortion in Illinois and also protecting the abortion providers. Details are here.
I hope that it will always remain the case in Illinois
These days, similar to when Donald Trump was elected, many new volunteer applications are coming in. I know it won’t last long, and we will struggle to fill the shifts again in several months.
Most people who want to volunteer their time to protect abortion rights are people who want to give and who do not expect to be showered with praise for doing it.
However, I still come across volunteers who … I struggle to describe what bothers me; I observed similar behavior before and can’t really put a right world on it. For example, after hearing me talking about MAC hosting, one lady started asking me “whether I ever had any negative experience with clients.” I wanted to tell her that, at the moment, there is a six-month waiting list for MAC volunteers, so she should not bother, but I decided against it.
I met a couple of other new escorts (I do not want to profile them, though I desperately want :)) who also behaved like their presence there is the best gift; and now it’s OK to sit in a folding chair for most of the shift and talk on the phone and do nothing just when our shifts are becoming more and more stressful. I blogged about similar encounters in the youth shelter before, so that’s no news. It stinks that you can’t filter out such people before they start volunteering. Time is spent training and onboarding them, and other people are waiting, and such volunteers are of no use.
I also remember how once, when I was blogging in my Russian blog about the youth shelter, some people reacted to my stories as “these youth are ungrateful, demanding, make you feel guilty” and other nonsense of the same kind.
To summarize: people are right when they say that volunteering is rewarding. But it is rewarding not because others say “thank you,” but because you are giving whatever you can to other people or a good cause. Volunteering is a privilege. And even though you try your best to give, nobody is obligated to accept. Giving is rewarding, not hearing “thank you” in return (although it’s always nice to hear :)).