Riding the Elevator

The Cristo Rey Network office is on the twelfth floor of a building which is owned by DePaul University here in Chicago.  Since there are a good number of classrooms on these floors we often ride up and down with the students.  On two different occasions in the recent past I have had two very positive experiences with the students.

The first was some weeks ago when the University redid the paneling in the elevators.  When we moved in here there was a sort of psychedelic stainless steel motif on the walls that was a bit dizzying to see.  The first reaction was to grab the handrail to steady yourself.  They decided to replace that paneling with something that made it look like mahogany, though it was still metal.  A student got in the elevator and commented “So that’s where my tuition goes.  This is a school after all and not a Madison Avenue office building.”  My first reaction was that I was back in Peru in the sixties.  People were quick to criticize any sort of waste of money.  I liked the fact that this young man was that sensitive to what might be considered over the top.  After all, downward mobility has to begin somewhere.  Maybe on an elevator.

The other occasion was when I was going down alone and the elevator stopped to let two students get on, a young man and a young woman.  I was obviously at the back of the car.  When we reached the ground floor the young man put his hand out to hold the door and let the young lady exit first.  Then he turned to me and my gray hair and motioned for me to go before him.  I said no, thanked him and said “after you.”  He came back saying, “I insist; after you.”  What a delight it was to come across a young man in today’s world that courteous and that anxious to let someone else go first.

I found hope on DePaul’s elevator.

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2 thoughts on “Riding the Elevator

  1. Dear Father Foley:

    After reading your stories, I went back to the line “My first reaction was that I was back in Peru in the sixties..” and I asked myself why and what was going on in Peru in the 60’s. I was at that time attending La Inmaculada HS in Lima and those were the days of so much revolution, but perhaps too much waste more than revolution?

    • Carlos:

      Thanks for your reply. Those were indeed heady days; change was in the air. One seemed to breath it in every direction: in the Church, in the Peruvian government and in society in general. A large percentage of the people I worked with, high school students like yourself at that time, were quick to criticize the status quo, things that were simply accepted as “the way things are.” That was what the comment of the young man on the elevator reminded me of. I thought it was refreshing that someone would be free enough to have another opinion and express it.

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