I’m doing what’s called a restricted internship. Meaning that, unlike most interns who have moved all over the country and world for the year, I’ve elected to stay in the Chicago area. My wife is in her third year of law school at DePaul University, and so moving away for the year was out of the question. So, we’re still living in our apartment at LSTC, which is nice because the seminary does its best to keep housing costs low, and it’s centrally located for both Andrea and me.
As I prepared for the beginning of internship, and as I helped my classmates load up and move out for theirs, I started weighing the pros and cons to restricting my internship to Chicago. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but as I sent my friends off to such adventurous places as Bradenton Florida, Vancouver Washington, and Tblisi Georgia (the country, not the state), I was feeling a little bummed that we were staying behind to endure yet another snowy Chicago winter.
Six weeks into my internship, I’m realizing that the biggest downside to restricting is exactly what I expected it to be: the commute. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love a good trip in the car, especially with the amount of quality time I’ve been spending with NPR lately. The drive isn’t the issue – the distance is. When there’s a night meeting, I have to stay through the evening. If I were to be at home and there was an emergency requiring me to get to the church as fast as I could, it would take me 45 minutes to get there. And, since I spend my evenings and days off at home, it’s been difficult to get integrated with the wider community of Palos Heights.
In truth, I feel most definitely restricted.
But, I’m finding ways to overcome these restrictions. Palos Heights is a wonderful community with lots of small businesses owned by local residents, and so I have started my integration into the community simply by supporting them. There’s a wonderful little deli which I get my dinner from whenever I have to stay through the evening, a semi-famous Chicago-style Italian Beef restaurant that’s great for lunch, and a public coffee-shop at Trinity Christian College that I've been to a few times to work on my sermons. I’ve started working out at a local gym, doing my dry-cleaning, and getting my oil changed in Palos Heights instead of in Hyde Park, not only because it’s easier, but also because these little interactions help to make Palos Heights feel a little more like home for me this year. And, I hope these interactions help the people of Palos Heights feel that I am invested in this community.
I don’t live in a vicarage next to the church, and the great distance between my home and the community I serve could make it easy for me to feel like an outsider. Thankfully, I am learning the steps it takes to integrate myself into a community even when I don’t live there. And, though I’m not in an exotic, new place, I’m still learning to be a part of a community I knew nothing about before now, which I feel is an integral part to the internship year.