Chicago’s Hull House is closing today at 5pm. The story Jane Addams started back in 1889—a house for underrepresented people in Chicago—comes to its final chapter today. The unfortunate accounting resonances of that “chapter” imagery are all too immediate for the some 300 employees who this afternoon pack up their things and head out of the now bankrupt House. It’s a sunny day in Chicago, and a sad one.
How eloquently hopeful it was to have guests from a faith community of people closely acquainted with the underrepresented of Chicago in chapel this morning: Roseland Christian Ministries. It was deeply good to hear from Pastor Joe (a Trinity alumnus)—a man who says as much by comportment as in words—and to listen with him to the stories of Felisha, a woman who lost her sight and, in a way, found her vision in Roseland’s community. In the book, which Dr. VanderWeele, Monica Brands, and Bethany Eizenga edited and published, Voices of Redemption, Felisha’s story artfully unfolds:
You heard the story of the blind man—when I look at my situation, I say that you can get spiritual sight because he had to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that’s what I needed. If you get to where God wants you to be, it’s worth it. You might have to go through a lot to get to that point but once you get to the point where he wants you to be at, it’ll be all worth it.
I like that last Pauline phrase a good deal. It’ll be all worth it. Maybe it’s the gentle inversion of the be and the all that catches my ear. I find I have hard time saying those words in that order without slowing down. If she’d said, “It’ll all be worth it”—or as the old song has it, “It’ll be worth it all”—that would have emphasized what she’d undergone, what she’d suffered, what brokenness there’d been. And there is much there to attend to. But how beautiful that she emphasized all the worth of what has finally come about—and still is coming about, glory be.
It might feel for whole days at a time that the world is doing everything possible to make your work, your studies, your very life file Chapter 11. But as you stand with folks like we find at Roseland, or the folks now spilling out of the Hull House, as you stand as social workers, as media practitioners, as businesspersons, as mathematicians, as biologists, as musicians, I sure hope you’re all in. Like Albertena VanderWeele was wont to say, “Play the game of life for keeps.” But does the playing and the keeping matter? I think we can take Felisha’s word on that, even on sad, sunny days in Chicago, it’ll be all worth it.