I crossed a lot of streets growing up in Chicago. Most were simple enough. You waited for the light. Or for the cars to pass. If you were daring, you’d run out regardless of cars or screaming parents or timid friends and hope for the best.
I took pride in judging time and speed and driver skill and weaving through cars whose passengers feared for me because I was blessed with short legs. And then there were the dreaded intersections. The streets with cars coming from more directions than I could count or with lights that looked like they directed one path when they really instructed another.
There was the intersection near 103rd & Halsted where I faithfully frequented Harold’s to purchase a regular half chicken with mild sauce. Halsted was always crowded. There was the one at 87th, near the Dan Ryan, next to my godmother’s house, a short walk from the Burger King where my brother and me used to eat Whoppers because Auntie Pat didn’t make me eat little cheeseburgers.
I was a short child and I cared little for big streets. I especially hated the huge intersections where cars would come from winding, nutty directions, all with stoplights functioning in response to some unseen wizard who clearly hated small children who crossed streets to get from one place to another.
79th & Stony Island. 103rd & Vincennes. 127th & Western. Over the years, I’ve added the ones at Belmont, Elston, & California, the ones all along Milwaukee, including that nasty one down by Irving Park. On foot or in my car, I still dread those intersections.
An intersection is a place where paths cut across other paths. It’s a place that meets some place else. Hopefully each place or path takes direction from something like a stoplight to prevent a collision or an injury to an unsuspecting pedestrian–or, if you frequent downtown Chicago, a pedestrian who simply cares less.
Life pushes us into intersections. We have roles to fulfill and expectations to meet. We keep friends at work separated from those in school, and we carefully choose who gets to come near family on one hand and who, on the other, we tell secrets to.
My intersections have to do with being my wife’s husband, a son to my mother, a brother and friend and pastor. They are the streets inside my head which I walk softly as I seek publication for this or that novel, as I write short pieces for a friend’s magazine, or as I wrestle with words only I will see.
What have you identified as an intersection in your life? Hopefully this blog can be one of those places where we engage the paths which cut and cross and, by grace, get us some where.