These stairs are frequently swept, bleached and constantly used. They are the coming and going of thousands of homeless folk on an annual basis. Different ages, ethnicities, genders and motives pound their way up and down, down and up, with purpose and necessity.
As I talk, I observe and I pray for the day, an elevator will grace Sylvia Center.
A 74 year old, with his painful knees and severely curved spine staggers his way up. He can barely walk a Chicago block, so he rides his bike all day and chooses to make the trip to the 4th floor only in his coming and going. A group of reckless pre-teens leap and jump down the stairs nearly knocking Felipe to the ground. I yell a “be careful”, as they head to the door.
On this cold February day, a middle aged couple, crippled with raging heart problems, obesity, asthma, and the husband’s seizure disorder, puff and pant their way up to the 4th floor. They stop at every landing to breathe, profusely they sweat, sucking in all the air they can absorb. They smile, but are exhausted, and I pray that they don’t have a heart attack between three and four.
Community is developed as the mother of seven tries to carrel her family up to three. They work together, to get them all in their room. Fellow residents carry, watch and assist this poor mother struggle to get her babies, toddlers, groceries and double stroller up these stairs. It happens, because of love and concern, in what would be an impossible situation. These poverty stricken folk embarrass the affluent with their generous self giving compassion for those sharing in their struggle. Emotions are stirred as I see a fragile 67 year old man offer to carry her stroller. He persists, but another resident wins the honor.
The scenarios vary. Bobby with his fractured foot, Demetrius coming “home” from triple bi-pass surgery, Linda with only one leg, yet, they don’t fuss. They are obligated to make the climb because they need CCO’s services and a bed.
The stairs are easy and even enjoyable for some. It is exercise and it is fast! But the fact remains: our 5 flights of stairs are a painful reminder of the inequality of life, and sometimes the biggest moaners are the fit, able-bodied people wanting life a little easier, while the enduring sick grin and bear it, grateful for the roof that’s over their heads! The sick, the elderly, the disabled, the parents with their babies and the pregnant NEED an elevator! It is not just a WANT, it is a NEED!
The never ending comment that frequents my ears in the repeated conferences I tend to have on stairs is “man, this place needs an elevator!"