“You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly and the badly behaved until the bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.” – Greg Boyle
I Grow Chicago is a collection of those who are called to love the wounded – unconditionally, with radical hospitality. As a staff, we often joke about what we do before 8 am, as days often begin early with calls from neighbors in crisis. Our Co-Executive Directors Erin and Quentin are on the ground, every day, giving all they have to their call to love the wounded. Erin has a community member’s belongings in her garage and van because he lost his housing. Quentin has several times offered to give up his own paycheck if it means lifting others up. Our organization is not a downtown business, and from the outside, it may often look chaotic and overwhelming. People of all ages are constantly flowing in and out of our Peace House in a crazy, beautiful dance we like to refer to as “Grandma’s house.” We don’t work the typical 9-5, because that’s not what you do with family.
Instead, the work we do to heal, sustain, and grow a community is, in many ways, “heart work.” Our Peace House is made up of neighbors who decide each day to put one foot in front of the other make a difference in their neighborhood. This choice requires incredible resilience and hope, and those of us who did not grow up in Englewood are often in awe of our community’s power. We feel huge amounts of gratitude for the privilege of walking alongside our community towards justice. We are even more grateful for the family we have created. “Heart work” is difficult, never-ending, and soul-affirming.
We ask each and every person who comes into our Peace House – whether you are there for services, to volunteer, or just to visit – to see self and others differently. We ask for vulnerability and openness to unlearn entire frameworks of operating in the world. We ask you to do what you can, as you can. Most importantly, we only have two rules at our Peace House: No guns. Come as you are. We know that when everyone is given the chance to lead from a place of love and non-judgment, true change is possible.
Over 4th of July weekend, there is generally an uptick in violence in our city, and this year was no exception. Yet we did find something exceptional when our Peace House opened after the long weekend. On July 5th, at 9 am, our neighbors were already outside cleaning up the block. One person shared that over the weekend, one of the neighbors on the block decided to host a party for all the children, spending the money they could on a bouncy house and hot dogs. They decided to create a safe, fun space for children to play and be children. Our neighbors told us, “It was just like a Peace House event, but it wasn’t by the Peace House. We did this.”
That moment, right there, is why we do “heart work.”