Allow me to take you on a tour – a journey through the place I live.
No need to drive. The best way to experience my neighborhood is on foot.
Arrive on the train
Step out onto the platform
Enter Rogers Park
Step off the train at the Morse Red-Line stop. Walk along the wooden platform toward the exit. Watch as the train rattles away, its red tail lights fading into the distance.
Pass the shelters with their heat lamps. When you make the trip home, you’ll appreciate their warmth against the autumn’s chill.
Walk down the stairs. Don’t worry about the places where the paint appears patchy. That’s where graffiti has been been covered up. The city is good at keeping the station clean.
Wave at the woman at the counter as you pass through the turnstile. Her job is thankless, most people only talk to her when they have a problem. Thank her for being there to help.
The grocery store
An array of different foods
Just like the people
Turning down Morse Avenue, notice the absence of big box stores. Most establishments are small, independent businesses. It feels like a neighborhood, not a shopping center.
Watch the people. See how many different nationalities and cultures are represented. This is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago. The city estimates over eighty languages are spoken among the residents.
Approach the grocery store. Outside, a man stands asking to money. Say hello to him. Even if you don’t give any money, you can still give him the gift of significance. You can acknowledge he exists.
The owner greets you as you enter the store. “Welcome. How are you doing?” His welcome makes you glad to shop there. Return the greeting with a smile.
Unlike most grocery stores, this one has narrow aisles and low ceilings. But don’t let that deceive you. The store is fully stocked. There are few items you cannot find here.
The selection mirrors the diversity of the neighborhood. Need spices for curry? Want to try a dragonfruit? Feel like making a stir-fry with Asian flavor? Morse Fruit Market has you covered.
But today, you’re just here to get some fruit. The bigger supermarkets cannot sell produce that’s fully ripe. So stores like this one buy it at reduced prices. That means most of the produce is inexpensive and ready to eat. How about blood oranges? They’re on sale today.
At the checkout counter, the cashiers laugh with each other. I don’t know Spanish and usually miss their jokes, but maybe you catch them. Pay for the fruit, and continue on your way.
Good oranges, eh?
Down by the lakeside
Where the water meets the shore
Enjoy the silence
Walk along the lakefront. The sun shines high above, pretending to add warmth to the chilly fall day. A handful of trees cling to their last, yellow leaves. Fat squirrels hunt for food.
The wind blows in off the lake, tossing the water into a froth of waves. If it were summer, you could lose hours playing in those waves. Maybe they don’t get as big as the ocean, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun.
Enjoy the sound. The joining of the water to the shore drowns out the buzz of the city. Meditate in the stillness.
Occasionally, you pass a man with his dog. If he apologizes as the dog comes up to you and gives a sniff, tell him it’s fine. Pat the dog on the head as she wags her tail happily. Let the man know how he has a beautiful dog.
The wind picks up. Time to head inside for a bit.
With a coffee cup
Sitting at the table and
Watching life go by
The best coffee shop in the area is a small place on Devon Ave. Dark red walls covered in artwork stand in contrast to the plain walls of most chain coffee shops. Holiday decorations – lights, wreaths, and ornaments – invite you to come and stay for a while.
Pick a table, and go order. The coffee is lovely, but if you’re not a fan, tea, hot chocolate, and cider are also good choices. And while you’re at it, have a Nutella scone. They’re as delicious as they sound.
Smile as the kindness of the owners warms your heart like the hot drink warms your body.
Sit for a while. Exchange stories. Tell jokes. Or maybe just watch the people go by. You can see all kinds of interesting people in a coffee shop.
But don’t stay too long, there is still more to see.
Be welcome and come
Into my fair apartment
Make yourself at home
My street is quiet. Only when a car double parks, blocking the bus, is the silence broken. Walk the sidewalk, saying hello the people you pass.
Once you enter my building, climb the stairs to the top floor. Or, if you feel lazy, take the elevator. Knock on my door, and come inside.
Although it’s small by some standards, the apartment comfortably fits my wife and me. We use the space efficiently.
Enjoy the light streaming through the windows. The best part about the apartment is not looking straight into another living room. The nearest two buildings are one story shorter than our building. That gives us a clear view of the morning sky.
Stay for supper. My wife just made a delicious onion soup, and I just baked a loaf of bread. Share in the hospitality of our table. Feel welcome in our home.
We would offer you a bed to sleep, but we don’t have a guestroom.
Stop a moment at
This place of community
Greet people you know
Before you begin your journey home. Stop at the Heartland Cafe, a local pub and restaurant.
Admire the photos on the wall. It’s a place of history and heritage.
The staff are always friendly. They’ll be more than happy to tell you the specials of the day.
Enjoy a drink. Watch the game. Strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to you. This is a space of community. Chances are, you’ll recognize someone you saw earlier in the day.
And when the game is over, when a smile of contentment crosses your face, don your coat and cap, and head out the door.
Begin the journey back to the special place you call home.
Celebrate your home
It has a special magic
It’s easy to stop noticing just how wonderful your home is. Amid the blur of life, you ignore the bits of magic that make it special.
Celebrate the place you live. Take time to appreciate all of its beauty – the people, the buildings, the trees. Pause to reflect on its blessing. Walk your neighborhood in gratefulness.
What’s your home like? What are some of the things that make it wonderful?
PHOTO: A morning walk through my neighborhood.