Monthly Archives: February 2013

The rules

February 23, 2013

Walking into the world surrounding Harper High School in Chicago is entering a whole nother realm. A place it may be best not to walk into at all, actually, at least not without following the rules.

Rule number one, look at a map.
Rule number two, never walk by yourself.
Rule number three, never walk with someone else.

Confused yet? This American Life was too, so it sent three reporters to the school near which twenty-nine student shootings took place last year. Arriving at the school at the beginning of the academic year, they stayed for a full semester, and then they made this radio program. There is so much going on at Harper High School that the show was divided into halves; Part One aired last week, followed by another hour this week.

Rule number four, don’t use the sidewalk.
Every day at dismissal, kids drift out of Harper High School and walk along Wood Street– actually, right down the middle of Wood Street. It’s a strange scene. Cars drive slowly, waiting for students to move out of the way. One teacher told me that when she first arrived at Harper, she thought this was just plain hooliganism. The teenagers taking over. One afternoon, a girl named Alex explained, that’s not it at all.
“We feel safer like this. For some reason, we just feel safe like that. we never like to walk past trees and stuff, there’s too much stuff going on.”
“Too much stuff going on” is shorthand here for the shootings, the fights, the craziness. It’s better to walk down the middle of the street, where you can keep a broad view of things, and where you have a few more seconds to run if you need to.

"Too much stuff going on."

“Too much stuff going on.”

Some students in particularly compromising situations receive rides to and from school from administrators, and some choose not to leave the house except to go to school.

Chatting with a student named Deonte, the reporter asked, “Do you ever go out, just around the neighborhood?” Deonte insightfully replied, “Oh, no. No, not at all. And in a way, that can be bad as well. Because that’s when depression is easy to set in. That took a hold of me, because I’ve been in the house for about three years. I’ve been staying in the house a lot.”

What would you do?

Listen to Harper High School, Part One and Part Two and give it some thought.

However little by little

February 17, 2013

‘I am looking back at my little pigeon which is sitting on the roof, and wants to say goodbye to me,’ answered Hansel.
‘Fool!’ said the woman, ‘that is not your little pigeon, that is the morning sun that is shining on the chimney.’

Hansel, however little by little, threw all the crumbs on the path.

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When the moon came they set out, but they found no crumbs, for the many thousands of birds which fly about in the woods and fields had picked them all up. Hansel said to Gretel: ‘We shall soon find the way,’ but they did not find it. They walked the whole night and all the next day too from morning till evening, but they did not get out of the forest, and were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but two or three berries, which grew on the ground.

In a land of such plenty, Hansel might throw an entire loaf of cheap bread to the ground to guide him and Gretel back home, enough to share with many more thousands of birds.

Then, at the freeway overpass, a man holds a battered sign the color of crusts: “Homeless and Hungry Please Help God Bless”.

Hansel and Gretel from the Brothers Grimm on Project Gutenberg.