3 THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE STREETS OF NEW YORK
New York City. A melting pot in the truest definition of the word. The Big Apple, Gotham, The City That Never Sleeps, The Center of the Universe, The Capital of the World. It is the most densely populated city in the United States and influences world trends in things like fashion, technology, entertainment, commerce and finance. You get the point. There is A LOT happening here. People come here with big dreams and many of them come to pass. Every time I come to this city though I can’t help but wonder if, in the end, the rat race is worth it. I wonder if all the hustle is a mission with a vision for a purpose, or if people are just caught in the jet stream of achieving the current definition of success.
Here are three things I learned on my recent trip to New York:
1. EVERYBODY IS GOING SOMEWHERE
I stood for 20 minutes on a balcony overlooking the main concourse at Grand Central Station. Though it is just one of 468 in Manhattan, it stands alone in it’s beauty and grandeur. This terminal houses 44 platforms and 67 tracks, all operating simultaneously, with one goal in mind. To get people from point A to point B. It is the sixth most visited tourist attraction in the world with 750,000 people passing through daily. And they are all going somewhere. I found myself lost in the bustling crowd making their way through the concourse and couldn’t help but wonder, where they all were headed and what it would cost to get there.
Stepping out onto the streets of Manhattan greets you with an energy like no other. Everybody you meet seems to be on a mission. I love sitting in coffee shops and taking in the conversations around me. It reminds me this world is big and that we all play a role in making it go round. It is inspiring and invigorating. As quickly as I am inspired though, I have to question the cost of it all. All of this traveling can add up and the hustle, if not careful, can eventually wear you down. One step onto the wrong track can leave you somewhere you had never intended.
I love this simple passage in Proverbs 29:18, “Without a vision, the people will perish.” We are all headed somewhere. But I wonder if our vision is clear, or if somewhere along the way life has worn us down. Or I wonder if the thrill of the chase has us heading in the wrong direction. I wonder if our steps are intentional or if we are just hopping on the next available train. Either way, we are going somewhere, and I believe most of us want this life we have been given to count!
2. IT IS NOISY
It doesn’t take long after you wake to begin to hear life happening all around you. From honking horns to sirens, sledge hammers to the sounds of an arriving subway, voices to footsteps, it would appear that New York, in fact is the city that never sleeps. One afternoon, I was having a conversation with my husband, Chad, as we were walking to lunch. We were talking about some of our dreams for this year. It was exciting and life giving. You could say we were having a moment. That was right up until we walked past a construction site. Quickly, we were interrupted by heavy machinery and the clanging of steel. Our conversation had been hijacked. When we could finally hear again, we had forgotten what we were talking about. We went on to have a great conversation, but for a moment, the louder noises had prevailed.
This can happen so often in our lives. The voice shouting the loudest is often the one we hear. They can be distracting and damaging. The wrong voices speak things like fear and shame. They say you are unworthy and incapable. They can convince you to head out on a destructive path. Like the streets of Manhattan, life can be noisy. We need often to be reminded of who God says we are. We are a new creation, we are His child created in His image, we have been set free, we have been accepted, we have been given wisdom, we are created to do good works, we are chosen and blessed, just to name a few. But then life happens and it doesn’t do so quietly. It doesn’t take long for the volume to increase and for our purpose to get hijacked. It is imperative we develop selective hearing. We are created to do good works. Life can be noisy, but over time we can tune out the bad and even ignore what is shouting the loudest. God is close and He is speaking. All we have to do is listen and move in the right direction.
3. THERE IS A LOT OF “EXCUSE ME” AND NOT A LOT OF “HOW ARE YOU?”
I was grabbing an afternoon cup of coffee at a busy shop in Tribeca. I had waited in a long line and was eager to grab a hot drink and get off my feet. The woman who served me seemed in a rhythm until I seemly shocked her with three words, “how are you?” She looked at me like I was an alien. She replied with a quick “I’m well”, grabbed my money and signaled for the next person in line. At first I was offended, but then it occurred to me. This must not be a common question here. Everything moves so fast. You best be paying attention or you might just get ran over. There is a lot of “excuse me” going on, but rarely did I ever hear, “how are you?”
I sat down with my coffee but couldn’t shake off the lesson in that brief moment. It is possible to be so focused on our own life and our own mission that we forget to love people along the way. It’s a slippery slope too. We can take things that are inherently good and allow them to take over our lives at the expense of our family and our friends. We can become so obsessed with being heard that we forget to simply ask, “how are you?” That question has the power to change a life, but I fear it is becoming all but lost. We have become so conditioned to equate busy with worthy that it has created an “excuse me” culture. Jesus says this, “The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” It is impossible to love somebody with an “excuse me” attitude. If we don’t slow down, we just may just miss the mark. Listen more, talk less. And if you don’t know where to start, simply ask, “how are you?”
So that’s it. As always, I loved my time in New York. It is a city, but I found it speaking to me like it is a person. I wonder if any of these resonate with you? If so, I would cherish your thoughts in the comments below!
*This part of a series I’m calling Inside Out. As somebody who has been known to internalize my thoughts, this will serve as way to express my internal chatter and ultimately pursue a life in the wholeness of Christ.