“You live where?!”

Hope House community member, Molly Gabaldo, is a nurse in the Emergency Department at a local hospital and has been integral in the growth of the Port’s Free Clinic. She is pictured above (second from right) with some of the Port’s volunteer health care providers. This is her reflection on how she has experienced Hope since moving in as one of the original community members in May…


When I got a phone call in February from David, now the Executive Director of the Port Ministries, asking if I would be interested in moving into the Back of the Yards within a few months time my answer, without hesitation, was a resounding, “Duh! Why didn’t you ask sooner?” Now, much had led up to this phone conversation ending in my very assured answer to David: a month of living at the Port Ministries between semesters at St Ambrose University, falling in love with the Back of the Yards community, and years of dreaming to live full time at the ministry to seek ways to better serve the neighborhood had all culminated with this one phone conversation.   What I didn’t know was all that was awaiting me here in the Back of the Yards.

“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work — hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss — loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.” Jean Vanier

Transitions are hard. No matter which way you spin it, change is always going to teach you something, usually something you’re not interested in learning at the time; we push through regardless. In May, I transitioned from living in a very comfortable, thriving community in Iowa, to the very disheveled, underserved community of the Back of the Yards/New City. I have never been more excited for any transition in my life, a chance to live Jean Vanier’s challenging words of seeking a new kind of peace. Reactions from family and friends were varying; those who knew of my unfailing desire to live my faith in this way were overjoyed, some fearful of what I would encounter, others opinion-less. I was surprisingly satisfied with all of these reactions, comfortable in my decision to leap, to jump in head first to an unknown cluster of our own making here at HOPE house.

Every corner of this house has been teaching me something, lately:

The locks have taught me caution

The mice have taught me tolerance

The rooftop terrace has taught me joy in simplicity

The chapel has taught me silence

The plumbing has taught me patience

The dirt has taught me diligence

The many items left behind for us in the house have taught me a respect for what came before us

My HOPE housemates have taught me beauty in the individual; gifts brought to the table

The surrounding community continues to teach me of the heart of perseverance despite oppression and of the art of breaking down barriers

I continue to get varying reactions from those in my life regarding what we are pursuing here at the Port Ministries. The, “you’re crazy”ies and the “aren’t you scared?”s will probably never cease. In healthcare we look at an intervention in the light of whether or not its benefits will outweigh the risks for a patient in a given situation. Right now, the benefits of committing myself to this community—without a doubt (Duh!)—outweigh the risks of living in the heart of the south side of Chicago. Living this way is not for everyone, but everyone can be challenged by the innate desire of our humanness to connect to those around us and help them to seek their own sense of justice. Four months in and I haven’t figured it out yet, maybe September.