Early summer has turned the pavement hot and reduced pedestrians to traveling at the speed of a sluggish shuffle. School has wrapped up for the year, sending eager students racing out in anticipation of the immense freedom of July and August. And as my students painfully endured their last music lessons of the school year, they filled me in on upcoming adventures; days of endless sports camps, nights telling ghost stories at sleep away camps, vacations to Florida, California, the Galapagos, Japan, volunteer work in Peru, grand family road trips... with the closing of school doors, the world had opened up!
One student in particular had no such concerns for summer plans. His entire being was focused on one goal to be met before the sounding of the fall school bell ...the goal of convincing his mom to buy him an Airsoft pellet pistol. Ryan sat at his piano explaining to his truly uncool teacher that the particular gun he wanted might possibly be the best thing ever. As his gestures became more animated, I snickered inside, hearing 'Christmas Story' references play out in my mind. Losing patience with his teacher's inability to see the seriousness of the situation, Ryan pulled out his IPad, immediately pulling up pictures of the coveted item. As I looked at an unsettlingly convincing imitation of a gun, I said the one thing that could destroy any last illusion students might have of my own coolness... "I agree with your mom."
Six days before I found myself sitting at Ryan's piano, a thirteen year old boy was out in Uptown on a school night eating pizza at 2:30am. After being spotted by a rival gang member, he was shot in the head and died. He was Ryan's age.
As many of you already know, this will be my last update for a few months since tomorrow I will be traveling to France where I will begin my pilgrimage to Saint James in Santiago Spain. I will be spending the next weeks walking 500+ miles on a path walked for a thousand years before me. As I have been preparing for this trip, many people have expressed concerns for my safety. So, to put worries to rest, let me mention that Spain as a country averages between thirty and forty homicides each year. Chicago totaled 50...last month. Thus far there have been 31 murders for June and 239 for the year. And after the murder of the 13 year old I wrote of above, our police superintendent mentioned in a statement that he plans to work closer with 'Ceasefire,' a group of ex-gang members who step in the middle to diffuse violent situations. He failed to mention that funding for Ceasefire Uptown had already been pulled..
As odd as it sounds after the above stats, I will miss Chicago and Uptown this summer. I will miss volunteering with the food magician Ed at the Cornerstone shelter, I will miss the confused look on the faces of the kids on the corner when I offer them cupcakes and I will miss watching the world change from my balcony. (I will also miss my husband and obese cat..)
I hope you all have a lovely and SAFE summer and if you are interested in my extremely slow journey across Spain during the Eurocup (that I just KNOW Spain is going to win...)