Did my plan work? When your driver came back out on the street, opened the door to your black SUV and handed you a cup of what really is Chicago's best coffee, from our neighborhood place, did he also give you a copy of my book? And if he did, did the title spark enough interest for you to read the story that featured you?
It's a quick read. You would have finished it before your vehicle pulled on to Lake Shore Drive. Perhaps forgotten it by the time the big black SUV rolled by Fullerton on your way downtown.
Or maybe the story hit home. You read on and caught the purpose of the book: to spark new and different ways of finding work. New work. Better work. Maybe any work. Maybe even the work of getting re-elected.
There are, in the book, boatloads of questions; all clustered around five key principles. No "how-tos." Because, as we all know, there is no "how to" set of instructions that detail how to find a job. Even your job.
So we are left with principles. And just as important, the stories that make those principles come alive. Stories about everything from Dr. King tossing a baseball to a little boy to President Obama having a footrace with his youngest daughter.
It is the 5th Principle, "Practicing Stewardship" that might resonate most deeply with you---Chicago being under your stewardship. The principle is, as you already know, shorthand for 'taking care of something larger than yourself."
I wrote the book as a way of practicing stewardship. A way of taking care of that connection between a person and their work. A connection that is vastly larger than I am. Since publishing, I've tried to find an organizational home where I can build this new way of connecting people and work into something even larger. A place where literally anyone can be prompted to think differently about finding work. Be it more work, better work, work where one does what they do best or any work at all.
And up until last night, I thought that was the 'ask' of this plan. To say something like: 'You know Mr. Mayor, your plan for the City Colleges is truly inspiring, but it's missing something. It's missing new thinking about the way people find work. Same with the University of Chicago, University of Illinois, IIT, 100 different NGOs, or any given outplacement operation. What's needed is someone both well versed in managing people and budgets but most of all putting a transformative strategy into place. And then making change real as people strengthen their connections to finding and keeping work in record numbers. That was going to be the plan. Hire me to change the way people think about getting work.
Up until last night when it started to snow.
Around 10:30. As the season's last snow blanketed our quiet street, about 4 blocks directly south of your house. Just about to go to bed, I looked out my front window and saw her.
Shuffling north, pulling her shopping cart, one car length at a time. Like a portrait of sorrow and weariness come alive, the woman I'll call Cassie because I don't know her name. She doesn't speak. She just walks. Usually its north up our street in the morning and south in the early evening. A homeless commute. But tonight was way past her regular time. Her steps were extra hesitant, she was stumbling, could fall at any time. The snow began to come down hard. She kept walking north towards your house.
And that's when my 'ask' took a different turn.
That's when what I wanted you to walk over to the window of your warm and toasty house on a cold Sunday night and see Cassie trudging down our street. I wanted you to watch her. Just watch her.
Because in her weary shuffle are all the broken battered souls who will be decimated, who really will die slow and brutal deaths from the elimination of services for the most vulnerable proposed by (as the great blogger driftglass has named him) Governor Hedgefund.
And yes. Of course I read that you two are friends. Perhaps that will help get both of you to the table where you can make him stop the wholesale destruction of souls that reverberate out from Cassie walking past our warm homes. My hope is that you will "practice stewardship" not just because it's your job. My hope is even larger and more radical.
It's that you'll see Cassie walking by your home and know: that when she hurts, you hurt too.
So that's the plan Mr. Mayor. Help Cassie. Measure our stewardship by how well we take care of the most vulnerable.
Want help? Stop by the house some night on your way home.
I am your neighbor. So you are always welcome.
Maybe between the two of us, we can imagine a way to help Cassie.Because she's our neighbor too.
That's what I'm asking Mr. Mayor. Help me help Cassie and all she represents. The vulnerable.
Our neighbors too.