Second Chances

What began as hostile air has turned into a place weighted with curiosity. Blank stares have turned into quick hellos, and short greetings have turned into longer conversations.

Once again, the walks of Brothers and Sisters of Love have made headway. After hearing news of increased violence and crime in the area, Brother Jim decided to walk further west in the Back of the Yards area to meet new community members and learn about what was happening in the neighborhood.

Despite the sun, the first week was downright cold from the hesitation of the residents. People refused to shake our hands, many stared straight through us, and even the police driving through the area stopped to ask if we were lost.

However, the perseverance of the walk allowed God’s grace to shine through and impact our conversations. Several weeks into these walks, we are starting to be noticed for the better.

Rounding the corner of 55th and Damen we are greeted by the widening grin of a middle aged man. The first time we met this gentleman, he cursed and insulted Br. Jim’s habit. By the end of that night however, we prayed together. It was his first night out of jail and he was asking for help in transition. This week, he gladly shook the hands he rejected before, and began asking how we had been. He was glad we remembered him as others standing around the liquor store and gas station took notice. No longer were we alien strangers, but acquaintances of the community.
From our new friend, we walked onward to a family we had meant once before. The first encounter was met with silence and distrust as we searched for the family of a young man killed by gang violence. Upon discovering the family the encounter was polite, but distant. We prayed with the mother of the victim’s son. Even the departure was a little awkward.

As we met this family a few weeks later, they were happy to see us. The family was able to open up to us about the frustrations of the neighborhood, the difficulties with job applications, the stresses of having two family members in jail and caring for small children. The conversation was warm and the prayer was more intimate.

How often do we avoid situations because the environment is hostile and unwelcoming? These are the places Brothers and Sisters of Love choose to enter. Most encounters that began in adverse ways have grown into deep and lasting friendships.

By entering hostile neighborhoods with love and trust in God, Brothers and Sisters of Love has transformed hostility into friendship. As long as we avoid certain roads, restaurants, or residences, they will always remain less than welcoming. But when we allow the love of God to break through the barriers and expose our common humanity, the possibilities are endless. The same streets that fall victim to murders also hold generosity and good cheer when we take time to engage the people who live there.
Where do you see closed doors? Have you knocked, or moved on? Let’s all take the time to revisit some unwelcome situations in our own lives, and have the patience for God’s grace to shine light on the darkness, bringing the change that we all wish in the community.

–Megan Sherrier, BSL

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About Brothers and Sisters of Love

The Mission of Brothers and Sisters of Love is to be a visible sign of Jesus’ Love, Peace, and Presence to the poor in gang-infested neighborhoods in Chicago and to be a bridge between gangs & the poor with the Church. This is done by: 1. Loving everyone 2. Trusting in God 3. Forgiving everyone everything 4. Never being afraid.
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