Loving Chicago

I love living in Chicago. I loved it when I first saw it in 1959 and love it even more today. And yet it is impossible not to be deeply disturbed by the violence on city streets, mostly on the city’s south and west sides. There are multiple shootings literally every night, often resulting in fatalities. A distressing number involve young people and children, even infants, caught in the middle of gang-related gun fire. The Chicago Police Department has increased presence in the most vulnerable areas and the actual number of gun fatalities in the city is slightly lower. Nevertheless, the shooting and children dying continues night after night after night. It is beyond me how anyone can conclude that one of the root causes is not because everyone has a gun. There are simply too many guns, thanks to the dangerous obsessiveness of the NRA and the gun lobby. It is apparently pathetically easy to get one’s hands on a gun because there are so many of them available.

In my increasingly cynical moments about this American tragedy I find myself wondering if the NRA, having created or at least facilitated this mess, might consider sponsoring gun accuracy clinics and target practice for gang members, in order to reduce the number of innocent bystanders and little children who are maimed and killed by errant bullets.

But this is also about another dimension of life in the city, one I dearly love, its music. During the summer months the Grant Park Music Festival presents live, free concerts by the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday evenings. The concerts have been going on for decades. In fact, when Sue and I and our two little girls were living in Dyer, Indiana, 25 miles south of the city, on occasion we drove into the city, spread our blanket on the Grant Park grass and enjoyed the music in the cool of the evening. The concerts now take place on the stage of the magnificent Millennium Park Pritzger Pavilion which was designed by the distinguished architect, Frank Gehry. Seats near the stage are available for a fee. The rest of the seats and the Great Lawn are wonderfully free.

I’ve attended several concerts this summer and each time I am aware of and thankful for the gift. Benjamin Britten”s War Requiem was powerfully moving with the composer’s strong music and the libretto from British poets. Dvorak’s New World Symphony was beautiful, as always. The concerts are well attended but last Wednesday I arrived just as the concert was beginning and I had to search for an open seat. It was a picture perfect evening. The program included the majestic Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergio Rachmaninov, one of those great pieces of music that I never tire of hearing. The piano soloist was Valentina Lisitsa, who played with a combination of grace and power.

As I sat listening to Rachmaninov’s lush, gorgeous music, looking up at the stunning Gehry Pavilion against a light blue evening sky, framed by tall, iconic skyscrapers, sounds of the city – sirens, fire trucks, cabs honking – mingling with the music, I said a quiet prayer.

Thank you, Lord, for this amazing city.
We have made such a mess of things in some places.
But the city keeps reminding me of the great potential of human beings for good and beauty and kindness.
Nudge us, prod and push those of us privileged to live here to do all we can to make this city a place of beauty and security and hope for all its people and children.

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