We’ve all heard the “it takes a village” mantra… but when we examine some of the things which are happening in current socio-political climate in America… I pose the question, do you really believe in the “it takes a village” concept? or is that one of those phrases that gets lip service, or a do as I say and don’t do as I do things? What are you doing to participate in YOUR village? Whether you’re reading this in my hometown of Chicago, or you’re my friend Moumita across the world in Kolkata, India, I truly want to know what you are doing to make your village a better place… comments PLEASE!! Outside The Blue Diamond : It Takes A Village</font color>
One morning, while sitting in my comfortable suburban kitchen painted fun purples and lime green~sipping coffee and eating fruit salad for breakfast; I felt the goosebumps rise up on my arms as I held the newsprint in my hands. My green eyes followed the words on the page, and a tears began to cloud my vision as I read about 49 year old Will in the lifestyle section. He’s a blogger just like me. He has used a wordpress venue to tell his story, to communicate his inner most thoughts, feelings and ideas to the world. Why is this an emotional thing for me, you may wonder? Lots of people use blogs as online journals or diaries about their lives, that’s nothing new!
Well, Will is a man who lives on the streets of Chicago- more specifically, he “lives” on the streets in the neighborhood surrounding the Chicago Cubs ball park, “Wrigleyville”. He is homeless and has been for the last 7 1/2 years since the love of his life died of cancer. She passed away and he didn’t have the heart to go back to their apartment, and face his overwhelming grief, so as of that day, he became a resident of the streets.
He is not all that much older than me, and most nights, he sleeps on the bench outside the 19th district Police headquarters. The streets are his home, the concrete sidewalks are his hallways, alleys are his creepy dark basement that you tend to avoid unless you *have* to go down there. The metra bus exhaust is his “scentsy” aroma of the day in his home. He has decided the street is a better alternative than taking up residency in a homeless shelter. Yep, there are a lot of social services available to people like Will… but he’d rather not. He’s not mentally ill, he’s not a vagrant, a panhandler, he’s not an alcoholic or an addict~he’s just an “outside guy” so he says. He spends most of his days in front of the parking garage on Addison near Halsted. We live very different lives, yet I am drawn to him and his story.
Wrigleyville is a trendy urban neighborhood filled with restaurants and bars. Typical Chicago taverns dot the streets and public transit is the mode of transportation for most residents of Wrigleyville. As Will became a staple of the décor of the neighborhood~ soon the hipsters, students, and commuters began noticing Will in his familiar places, first they’d politely nod and he’d nod back. They’d smile and he’d smile back. It wasn’t long before they began talking to him and engaging him in conversation. He became a part of the neighborhood… a part of the village.
Just like most folks in the area, he’s a die-hard Cubs fan and says he “bleeds Cubby Blue” . He says he’s not a talker but since he’s been in Wrigleyville people seek him out and strike up a conversation. As residents began to engage him more often in conversation, they discovered for 49, he’s lived a full life, loved and lost and he had a lot of things to say.
As the sun began to rise on a chilly morning in April, next to his belongings leaning against a chain link fence, a little cardboard sign appeared, “OutsideTheBlueDiamond.Wordpress.com ” it read.
How does a homeless man, living in the streets begin a blog? well, remember that VILLAGE thing I was talking about earlier? a 20 year old exchange student from Italy, working on her thesis at Northwestern University handed him a notebook and pencil a week after chatting with him, “You should write your story down”. . . she encouraged him.
As he began to write and to become more comfortable in talking to more people his words began to flow…
“I realize the more people engage me in conversation, I talk more freely, my words come out better, and all this has been really therapeutic for me”
The exchange student, and Will exchanged phone numbers and she then sent him some tutorials on how to set up a WordPress blog. She helped him to get it all set up, added a banner, a picture and helped with some formatting. Another Wrigleyville acquaintance designed a logo for the blog. Someone else designed a business card for Will’s handyman skills – all that he could upload onto the blog site. Will uses the free computer hours at a community center “The Center on Halsted” to type the blog posts~ of which sometimes, he follows a written rough draft from his original notebook. He explained hitting the “publish” button has become part of his inner healing.
It was in reading how the COMMUNITY… the VILLAGE… the individual people of Wrigleyville came together to help Will start his blog and in turn begin his healing process from the loss of his partner of 14 years that really touched me. It is not easy for people who live comfortable lives, in trendy working class neighborhoods to reach out and embrace a homeless man. There are so many stigmas attached to the persona of a street life.
He writes tales of love, life, thoughts about current events and a lot about his observances of common, everyday life from his very uncommon vantage point. He says his blog is dedicated to his love, Helen.
As a blogger, I totally understand how writing and blogging can be therapeutic. Sharing ourselves and our ideas can be scary, but if you have the courage to be authentic, a little piece of you goes out into the world with each story. As I sit here and type this blog in my air conditioned living room, sipping a cold diet coke, I think about Will out there in the middle of Wrigleyville scribbling in his notebook~that someone bought for him with their own money, because they cared. I think of him walking down the street going to The Center to type it out, and maybe handing out one of his gifted business cards to a passerby. I will think of him tonight when I lay my head down on my soft pillowcase, and he kicks back on an iron bench outside the P.D. in the humidity and heat.
It truly DOES take a village, I believe in community. I believe in helping other people. This is one of the reasons I’ve set up Gypsy Spoonful the way it has been set up, with community at it’s center. Encouraging, supporting and helping each other in business~ but also in life… and although Will and I lead very different lives, I believe we’ve both been blessed and reaped the rewards of what it means to be a part of a wonderful community.
We need some painting done, I might just give him a call… or drive down to the parking garage at Addison and Halsted and hire him in person.
To read more about Will and to get to know him better through his writings, go to :OutsideTheBlueDiamond.Wordpress.com
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