by Roger Wright
The sign on the door says “C’mon In!”
You walk into a Forward Chicago gathering, an autumn harvest potluck. Following the flow of Helene and Richard’s home, the doors in the back thrown open to the lush green trees, poised for change, to their boat dock and the gently rushing waters of the North Branch of the Chicago River. That river like a timeless steady greeting saying, “Here? You belong. You are welcome here.”
If the question is, “What is Forward Chicago?” — you see the answer as Helene offers up a delicious tour of the harvest table groaning with the abundance of food from every corner of the globe. Swedish meatballs, chili, salads, roast chicken, Indian.
You see in the harvest table that Forward Chicago is a local community devoted to the inclusion of all ages. Community connections. Community action, engagement and influence. You look around the room and see ages 8 weeks on up through 80 years and above. All ages.
You drift around the room, everyone with plates loaded with food, and you hear talk of how attendance at the Bridge Club is booming. Computer classes, walking club, job search, reading, current events. All alive and vibrant. A collection of programming that goes beyond all this and offers something for everyone. Especially those who want to take a leadership role.
Talk turning to politics and world affairs, you think that if the inclusionary force field that propels Forward Chicago forward was watching over the refugee crisis in the Middle East, you would never, ever, ever hear that most un-American of declarations — “Go back to your own country.”
You would instead envision Abraham opening up the tent on all four sides, welcoming the stranger, and in acknowledging our common human bond, ask another question, “How can we together make sure everyone has enough?”
There is talk of the politicians and wondering if there are any at all left out there who are not bought and paid for. But that talk fades.
You have another piece of that sublime roast chicken. Another beer. You watch the river and listen hard.
Underneath the murmur of the crowd you hear the iconic Chicago writer Mike Royko reminding us from that softball field in the sky that the motto of Chicago has always been, “Where’s mine?”
Then you stop and wonder if here in the beating heart of Forward Chicago, that motto could become: “For those of every age: Here’s ours.”
Roger Wright, a consultant to Forward Chicago, is the author of “Finding Work When There Are No Jobs.”