I spent ages 3-8 living in the suburbs of Chicago. My first baseball game was at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs. We took the train downtown to see the shop windows at Christmas. The museums and zoos were excellent school field trips. And I came face to face with poverty. I'll never forget the impact of seeing homeless people on the streets. My young mind could not grasp the idea of people not having people. I loved the street performers - their music and acts mesmerizing but I could not believe that this was their "job". I'll never forget the sadness in my heart.
The past several years, I've come to realize just how much those formative years have effected my life. We lived in a culturally diverse neighborhood and I had friends of all ethnic backgrounds and religions. We knew several special needs children and they profoundly touched me. I remember crying as I tried to understand the world - the pain, the poverty, the "unfairness", the hurt. And even then, I think I somehow knew that God was teaching me lessons; lessons about life, about love, about compassion, about acceptance, about differences, about family.
How thankful I am for the years we had there and for the the things I learned. My parents were incredible examples as they trained us to really see and to embrace people. These lessons have challenged me to the core, inspired passion and purpose, and blessed me more than I ever could have imagined.