Blessed once again to experience a week of urban enlightenment, I am even further moved and inspired. It is difficult to convey adequately the impact chi-urban excursion has on its participants. This year like last, I am witness to the subtle transformations Gonzaga students have on this trip. The small steps we begin to take outside of our comfort zones–be it trying a pastry from a culture we are unfamiliar with, sitting next to a stranger on the bus, to beginning to interrogate moments of social injustice that prompt us to consider our own privileges–it quickly becomes evident that in five days something transformational has happened.
Though I do not claim to be well traveled, I feel confident to attest that Chicago in its entirety offers a uniqueness unmatched by other cities. With this bold declaration I am reminded of the word’s of Plato: “This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.” The people that make up Chicago make Chicago. The beauty of this city and the transformative power it enacts on students emanates from its inhabitants. This week we experienced the people through mediums we were perhaps less aware of. The food, the art, the conversations, the neglect, the beauty, the hope, the despair. It would be insincere to boast of Chicago’s amazingness and omit the less glorious details. In all honesty, Chicago is frustrating, while nevertheless beautiful. It would be ideal to relish in the city’s aesthetics–the sky scrappers, the navigable transportation, the art, and the culture, however this trip provides us with the opportunity to examine further what is readily seen and applauded. The blatant social injustices that exist within the city’s limits, elicits a visceral response. Confusion, I believe is the first emotion evoked by this realization, followed quickly by frustration.
Though we do not leave Chicago with our frustrations abated, we do leave with questions and the conviction to ask them. That alone is transformational, powerful, and beautiful. Touched again by the people of Chicago–their tragedy, their hope, and their beauty. Exposure to their world convicts me to ask the questions–not to settle in the city’s already justified beauty, nor to scorn its shortcomings but to love it arbitrarily, because a city is what it is because its citizens are what they are (or are given the opportunity to be.)