I believe that we are all products of our environment. I was born and raised on the “south side” of Chicago, memorialized in Jim Croce’s 1973 song Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, and much of that heritage remains with me today.
Perhaps the greatest influence on the development of the south side was the steel mills. First was the U.S. Steel South Works followed by Youngstown Steel, Republic Steel, Bethlehem Steel, and LaSalle Steel. At its zenith, South Chicago helped make the Chicago metropolitan area the leading producer of steel products in the nation. The employment opportunities within the Chicago steel industry stimulated massive immigration in the early 20th century and the south side became a mélange of cultural influences due to its rich ethnic diversity. During my formative years I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about and appreciate cultures beyond my own and I was exposed to cuisines from around the world which shaped my palate and food tastes forever.
Much of the population on Chicago’s south side was Catholic, including large components of Irish, Polish and Mexican residents and the church permeated every resident’s life, regardless of whether or not you were a member of the flock. I will always remember that I lived in “OLP” (Our Lady of Peace) Parish and, although I was not Catholic, my friends drafted me into their church choir for one year as they apparently needed voices regardless of the owners’ religious beliefs. Festivals celebrating various saint’s days were universally attended and Fridays were meatless, including grilled cheese in the public school cafeteria (although my preference has always been pepper and egg sandwiches).
I was constantly being cautioned by my friends against sin and warned about the prospects of hell if I did not change my ways. The Catholic Church typically divides sin into two categories: venial sins, in which guilt is relatively minor, and the more severe “mortal” or “deadly” sins which include wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Although I must admit that I was not immune from all of these, I managed to survive my youth and have so far avoided the prospect of a very warm end although I do live in Florida and it is hot here now. But who knows the future.
I would suggest that the original deadly sins have equivalents within the homebuilding industry and, while probably not recognized by theologians, are usually equally fatal. As the housing markets return, we must be certain that we have put these sins behind us so that we are ready to take advantage of the prosperity that is available in the future. Continue reading