I am on a new and wondrous adventure. Having received my undergraduate degree from a small liberal arts university in the rounded, tree-covered mountains of Pennsylvania, I came to Chicago ready to change the world. And ready was how I felt. I had spent my entire life in central Pennsylvania, minus a semester in Argentina, and I had indeed worked. As a full-time student, as a part-time theater technical assistant, as a church summer intern, in golf course maintenance, in custodial work, in landscaping. I did not particularly know much about worker justice. I had heard reverent stories of César Chavez and Mother Jones. I had also heard contemptuous words aimed at the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, and the United Autoworkers. I knew that God had moved me to my knees in compassion and to my feet in fiery passion in defense of immigrants’ rights. So many things had coalesced to make me who and how I am, but I did not know what that would mean in a new city so far away from the deer paths of my youth.
I did not expect a desk job when I applied and went through the interview process of the US-2 program of the United Methodist Church. Nor did I expect to live on the near South Side within earshot of US Cellular Field (and still often called Comiskey Park). Nor did I expect my commute via the Red Line el tracks to take more than an hour.
Nor did I expect to write a blog about it.
However that is the beauty of life. Sometimes our best-laid plans fall by the wayside, and sometimes our most ill-conceived plots become our most defining triumphs. It is overflowing with contradiction, confusion, chaos, and catch-22. We drown in tears of laughter, pain, joy, sadness. Or freshly chopped onion. Life is not always terribly poetic, but, my goodness, does it always make for a good story.
These are some of the things that I work for in the Red Poppy Fields. For friendship, family, community and many splendid things. But I also work for justice, respect, equality, sheer survival and many things that dirty our hands and bloody our faces. That is also what it means to work in the Red Poppy Fields.
And we all work there.
What we pick may vary—college degrees, sub-poverty level wages, pensions, jail sentences—but we all ultimately share the harvest collectively. What does that harvest look like? Parks full of children shrieking with delight or penitentiaries packed with unreformed convicts? A golden sunset sliding past a Midwestern silo or a smoke-choked battlefield that was once an Iraqi marketplace? A white wedding in a church sanctuary or a flag-draped casket in a military cemetery? The harvest is all of these things together, and I certainly have been unable wrap my feeble mind around all of it.
It is my hope that you will follow me on my adventure in Chicago, in the Red Poppy Fields, and we can share our bits of the harvest along the way. It is my prayer that we will love and respect each other in our actions and our words. It is my dream that just a piece of heaven might come on earth.