Moving to New York over 10 years ago threw me for a loop. No wonder the song says, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere..." Would I ever learn to adjust to what struck me as a wide ranging mixture of dispositions?
New Yorkers are mostly all transplants. It isn't like some states where you need to trace back generations before you are no longer considered as being "from away." Jostle your place into a job and an apartment, learn the transit system, have exact change for the buses and tokens for the subways, and we accept you. (Yes, I say "we" because after 10 plus years, I truly feel I'm a New Yorker.)
Amid all this mingling of humanity, we do get a reputation for being blunt and not finding a more diplomatic way to inform others when they tread on our "territory." This is an area so full, so squashed with people, that it's important to respect the mental and physical distances of privacy for people of all backgrounds and various walks of life. Many of the negative eruptions seem to come from protecting or claiming one's territory.
Yet, from behind the rough edges, there emerges an unexpected sweetness that is all the more noticeable for its unpredictability.
Never, ever, has this been more apparent than during the past few weeks. Beneath the steely gruff exterior, we are showing the world our heart.
Taking the "t" out of terrorists makes them errorists, and the attack most certainly was an error, because we are not so easily defeated. We are tough and strong. We have shown that we will come back even stronger in the face of adversity.
We're being awakened by the touch of God's grace - roused to express the good that has always been in our hearts. Grace is often described as a form of unconditional love - a love that would compel someone to work beyond exhaustion, under unthinkable conditions.
I'm reminded of this statement by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, speaking about a great need. To me, this statement is particularly appropriate in times of adversity: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 4).
These qualities are certainly evident in the lives of New Yorkers today. The rescue workers captivate and inspire us. News reports show the boots replaced hourly due to the heat from the underground fires. Newspapers display photos of the workers resting on top of the refuse piles. This is a brutal job being nobly done. Grown men with tears in their eyes listen to "America the Beautiful." As fans who cheer on marathon runners, crowds of ordinary citizens cheer dump trucks and Con Edison crews as they go into and out of Manhattan.
Father Mychal Judge, the beloved firefighters' priest, died giving last rites to a fallen firefighter. It has been voiced by many that Father Judge passed away doing his sacred duties so that he would be available on the other side to comfort the people who left our sight on September 11th.
A man with an armload of flowers placed a flower on top of each passing truck of refuse to remind all that even this dust represents the preciousness of people lost in this experience. A couple who live close to ground zero invited a firefighter to have a shower and a place to sleep for a few hours, and he wearily told the reporter, "Excuse me, now, I'm taking them up on it."
As we begin to think about rebuilding our city, we have the grace in our hearts to respond to the call as the people of another time responded to their call to "... rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work" (Neh. 2:18).
Thou shalt increase
my greatness, and comfort
me on every side.