Eat at Burger King. By yourself. In street clothes.
If you want to get to know Chicago and those of us who live here, go to the Burger King on Lawrence Avenue, just west of Western Avenue. And, as you’re eating your Whopper, watch the Mexican-American family that is likely to be eating there.
The father is just off work, and you can see the weariness drip off of him. He’s got some menial job — in a factory, or as a bus boy, or perhaps in the kitchen at another Burger King. Those are jobs without much dignity in our American culture, but, with his family, he holds his head high, and his kids chatter with him with great love and respect.
Listen to the two gray-haired, gray-bearded Serbian guys. Unless you’re a polyglot, you’re not going to be able to guess what they’re saying, but you can tell they’ve got strong opinions.
Look at the elderly man in a tie, white shirt and dark suit. He always sits alone at one of those small tables along a wall and does a crossword puzzle.
If you glance around, you’re likely to see some Asian-Americans, a homeless guy snoozing in front of a cold half-empty cup of coffee, African-Americans, at least one well-dressed person with a laptop and a cellphone using a booth as an office, young dudes with a lot of tattoos, women with unusual hair styles, and maybe some yuppies.
The voice of all believers
Archbishop-elect, 32 years ago, my friend Tim Unsworth wrote an open letter of advice to one of your predecessors, Joseph Bernardin, which was published in National Catholic Reporter. In writing to you, I’m following in his footsteps.
Tim, who died in 2008, started off his letter to Bernardin by urging him to eat at a local deli as the Episcopal bishop of Chicago was wont to do.
In my experience, though, Chicago is much more of a Burger King town than a deli town. For one thing, you’ll see a wide range of economic classes and a kaleidoscope of ethnicities and nationalities at Burger King. For another, there are just a lot more fast food places in Chicago and the suburbs than delis.
Some of the people you see at Burger King may be Catholic. Others, not. But that shouldn’t matter.
Coming to Chicago, you need to understand that, as the Catholic archbishop (and later as cardinal), you will be the single most visible religious leader in one of the great metropolitan regions of the world.
To be sure, when you speak, you will be speaking as a Catholic. Your words and ideas will come out of the Catholic tradition and the Catholic set of beliefs.
Still, in a real way, you will be the voice of all believers in the Chicago region. Continue reading