And our white minivan cruised through the streets in West Chicago, weaving through the boarded-up houses, the taped-closed windows, the parts of Chicago hidden away from tourists.
We were on our way to buy groceries for our service trip group doing volunteer work in Chicago that week, staying at a church in the area. We were headed to Dominick's, a nearby grocery store. We were told it was just a couple miles away.
Still, we had our guard up. We were five young women headed to buy groceries in a part of town where it was The Sadness, all the negative and depressing things in the world culminated in an explosion there. We weren't supposed to go out at night. We were aware. We knew the stories.
And just as we hit the five-minute mark of our drive, everything began to change. Shops went from shacks to sleek buildings. Less structures were boarded up. The landscape became open, inviting - not the desolate chaos of a few miles away.
It was a new world, and a beautiful grocery store within it. It had that warming glow of lights hitting packages and boxes, radiating with something familiar and not at all hit with a rundown wave.
Returning the cart to the inside of the store after grocery shopping, I felt safe crossing the street, glancing down the road at the line of shops and stores and establishments, thinking we'd soon be back to The Sadness.
It's strange the difference a couple miles can make.