Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Moral on a Monday

Published July 2015 at

Isaiah, Roxy and Giovanni serving sweets!
It has been my privilege over the last year to help SLCM in areas of communication and fundraising. SLCM lives out the axiom “community over charity” something that I strive to live out myself.

This week I had the pleasure of serving at South Loop Campus Ministry’s community meal, and got to bring along some pretty awesome people from my home church, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity.  Alicia, Roxy, and Elma were SLCM veterans who helped Pr. Tom really get Sunday nights going a couple of years ago.  Yami, Giovanni, Isaiah,  and Erica had not attended the meal before, but you would not have known it.  They came in like pros, bringing food and beverages, helping to set out and serve the food, and then join in the meal.  We all had a great time and appreciate the opportunity to be in community with such a lively bunch!

But… here’s the thing about that.  As most people reading this know, most of the people attending that meal are homeless.  Some of them suffer addiction and mental illness.  They depend on state funded programs to help them find shelter, food, medical care, and relief.  Some of them are students, who depend on state funded or subsidized programs to help pay or their tuition, medical care, and transportation.

I have been on the sidelines of community organizing and participating in direct actions for some time now, but this is the first issue that I have felt called to take a risk for.  Governor Rauner’s budget cuts are going to hurt my friends, neighbors and family in ways that I cannot imagine… and I am a little mad about it.

#WWJCut the first #MoralMondaysIL action
At the first #MoralMondaysIL action I participated in divine obedience (sometimes called “civil disobedience”).  Along with Pr Ben and 12 others, I was placed under arrest and issued a citation for the ironically named charge of “Failure to Exercise Due Care”.  About a month later, at the third #MoralMondaysIL action, I had planned to do divine obedience again, expecting the same citation.  However, on the morning of the action, one of the seven who intended to commit criminal trespass was unable to come, my afternoon was open, so I decided to step up and take their place.

It seemed like a good decision at the time.  As I waited to start the action my heart was beating in my throat!  I’ve never been more nervous.  The funny thing is that my previous arrest was so calm… but for this one there were only seven of us, and a small group of chanters that was instructed to leave at the first sign of police.  When they left there was a silence, and after a long, awkward pause I stared singing the only song that popped into my head, “who’s side are you on”.

I'm holding up the word "cuts".
We continued to sing as the police approached us, lined us all up and lead us to the van that eventually took us to the police station.  When we arrived at 18th and State the arresting officer explained what was going to happen and we were escorted into a holding area to be booked.

It was a crazy couple of hours.  The police did not seem to know how to book us.  I don’t know if they were training new officers, had new software or software issues… but it was an incredibly slow process.

Eventually we were brought back for fingerprints, mug shots, and put in cells.

It’s nothing like on tv.  No one read us our rights.  We were not handcuffed, in fact it felt like we probably could have just walked away at any time and no one would have cared.  The fingerprints were done on a computer and the mugshots against a grey brick wall.  There were no bars on the cells, and in fact, each cell was private.

I did not take the bologna sandwich, but I also did not take enough toilet paper.  I was in a cell for a little over 3 hours.  It was cold.  I tried to nap, mediate, dance, stretch, switched positions about 20 times.  The worst part of jail for me is that it was really boring.

While I was being processed a young black man in his 20s was also being processed.  He was a cook at a popular steakhouse who had been picked up with a dime bag of weed.  I could not help but wonder if he would even be here if he looked like me?  But he did not look like me and was going to be staying overnight in jail because his bond hearing was not until morning.

Someone had previously scratched on the wall of the cell that I was in: God Help Me I’m Scared.

I was not scared; I had no reason to be.  I am a middle aged white woman with a job, an education and a nice dress.  I grew up poor but I lucked out and somehow it was my choice, not my circumstance, that led me to be in jail that afternoon.  I was going to be out of there in a few hours and none of the police were going to give me a hard time.  I knew that and right now I think it’s important to name my privilege.

After a few hours I was given a copy of my I-Bond, instructions for my court date and was allowed to leave.  There was a team waiting for us on the outside and they had my phone and purse, a slice of pizza, and a message that my dog was fed and Bob would pick me up if I called him.

On a side note - Bob… the piano player at my church (First Lutheran Church of the Trinity) who runs a books to prisoners program and is always visiting someone in prison or picking someone up from jail.  Bob who challenges me to practice radical hospitality.  If you ever see Bob at an action, playing the sousaphone, say hello… he’s someone you should know.

Governor Rauner’s proposed budget cuts are going to kill people.  When I visited the community meal on Sunday I could not help but wonder how many of those sitting around the table would be affected by the closing of a shelter or meal program ($300,000 cut from Assistance to the Homeless).  Those who are fortunate enough to receive medical care (15% of the aid to mental health services, 23% to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, $400 million to hospitals, $22 million from the Department of Public Health), or food stamps ($3 million from the Department of Agriculture), what’s going to happen to them?  Those who’s addictions have made them homeless ($31 million from alcohol and substance abuse programs), will they even have a chance?

Those of us who care and can need to step up and fight this.  If you are ready to get involved you are welcomed to contact me, or Pr. Ben, or just search #MoralMondaysIL and show up at the next action.  You won’t get arrested unless you choose to!

No comments:

Post a Comment