As I cross the Madison Street Bridge, skyscrapers loom above me, and the Chicago River flows below; a warm breeze brings the scent of the water onto my face. I am walking towards something. A slip of paper in my hand from a call I received the day before; a name and an address in my scrawl with loose directions through a city, still all too unfamiliar, takes me towards something, I don’t know what.
The building itself is huge. I weave through the halls looking at the numbers on the doors, walking past suite after suite, guided by the dolphins printed in a pattern on the carpet, swimming towards the very end of a dark hall where there is a glass door. The number on the door, and the name, match the slip of paper.
I ring the bell. The door opens, and a flurry of activity greets me. I am told to sit in the chair next to the assistant’s desk and wait. I am handed a bright green piece of paper to read, it’s double-sided and on that page, at the top, is the mission of the organization; the mission says it all.
I had left Oakland six weeks earlier feeling helpless, feeling as though the world was happening around me and that I had no control of its direction. I was just holding on, and I dreamed of being able to give back. I wanted to be of service, because I knew as a struggling artist just out of school – I could not be a Getty or a Gates. I had only my time to give and no place to give it.
That changed on the morning I sat reading the green piece of paper 13 years ago.
That morning I saw that a place existed where I could have an impact. I could build. I could dig. I could read. I could cook. I could paint. I could do a wide variety of activities that ended in a better city, a better Chicago, my newly adopted home.
I know this is where I am meant to be. So I work hard over the next 6 weeks to turn a temporary position into a permanent one.
I work hard every day, every year, towards every goal; having started as the girl who answers the phone, I find I have grown to be someone who helps set the direction of the organization over decade later.
I walk across the Madison Street Bridge every day. I walk across towards something; a better city, a better life, a better world for myself and for my family.
And everyday still holds that promise.