I just returned from a weekend in New York. It was a rather quick trip but we managed to squeeze in most of the essential experiences: getting lost in Brooklyn, being honked at by impatient New York drivers, eating fresh bagels (and having a lady tell me Montreal bagels were not real bagels in comparison to the New York variety), gawking at Times Square, getting serenaded on the subway, taking the elevator to the 45th floor of the Marriott, and haggling for bargains on Canal Street.
By far the most important thing we did (I went with 3 other females) was hang out with our friends, the pastors of the Brooklyn Vineyard, and their co-horts during their weekend church meetings and in their home. They most generously let us stay in their basement apartment and fed us a brilliant meal on Saturday night complete with several bottles of wine and after-dinner cigars. I have not been a city-dweller for most of my life and have always said that cities are isolating places. Not so. This time in New York was different than any other time I have been there. I expected to be embraced and included by our friends and their church community, but it went beyond that.
We met people on the street who were friendly and and considerate; we encountered some of the most helpful and personable staff in a store called Sephora; people on the subway actually talked to us; and our hosts are living proof of how you can make friends with everyday people in your life like restaurant and bar owners and invite them into your community. I admit I do not know how to do community all that well. We are trying to do that in Montreal, but I have a lot to learn in the areas of opening my life and home and time to people when honestly, some of the time I would rather just be left alone. But I am getting better. Every waitress in the restaurant, every guy behind the counter at a gas station, every bus driver, every bank teller, every hairdresser and fellow student is someone in need of community and I am learning to drop my guard and stop looking at them as strangers and service providers and instead see real people with real situations and real needs.
Yesterday on the way home, I stopped for gas at a little out of the way place on interstate 87 and started to talk to the man in the small store. He was from Turkey and asked me where I was from, what my ethnicity was, if one of the other girls was my sister, etc. In all likelihood, his Easter Sunday had been quite a lonely one as he spent the whole day by himself with an occasional visiting motorist. I was happy to chat with him a bit and wished him a Happy Easter as I left.
Mike T said some very cool things in his sermon yesterday morning. He said that God is changing the world from the inside out. You will most likely not see the power of God evident in miracles and dynamic changes in world situations first - you will see it in the hearts of people and then it will begin to work its way through the rest of life and the world. This was what Jesus did - he brought the reality of living according to the principles of life instead of death, he stopped the effects of death and sin in our lives. God is putting this world back into proper working order, but it has to start from the inside out.
Check out this video about our friends: http://www.northbrooklynvineyard.org/trashbar/
This photo was taken on April 7 in Times Square, Manhattan.