Blessings for a quarter: Selling hope on Chicago’s south side

Yesterday I took public transportation to the doctor on the other side of town–in course of the day I was on 4 trains and 3 buses. Leaving my neighborhood, the bus passes through a Hispanic neighborhood, then a black neighborhood that is even more economically depressed than my own.

An older black gentleman got on the bus and started his rap. Ten years ago the Lord told him to spread a message, he said, showing a piece of paper in his hand. In seven days anyone who took this message from him would receive a blessing. Sometimes blessings would start to be received after only one day. Take the message, he said, and if you can afford it, give me a quarter, a dime. The guy moved through the bus quickly, working the crowd. “Do you want another one” he said to someone behind me, “did you get a blessing?”, then the conversation continued in a lower voice. A couple of people took the message. It was a piece of paper with the title “anointed cloth” and a short paragraph–nicely printed too, not like the poor xerox quality prayers in the St. Jude shrine in the Hispanic neighborhood down the street–along with two 2X4-inch pieces of nylon net in yellow and blue.

The local Ford plant in my neighborhood has already sent everyone on an unpaid summer vacation and announced how many thousands of jobs will be eliminated in the fall. But just up the street they are still selling hope…and people are still buying it.

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