“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” -Emma Lazarus
We didn’t see any rats in the subway and the natives were friendly. So friendly, in fact, that each time we stopped to check our phones for directions, someone would walk up to us and ask if they could help. We must have looked like we were three ladies from Minnesota or something.
Don’t believe everything you hear about New York City, folks.
My sister, cousin, and I spent three days there this past week. We ate in fun places, visited museums and saw the musical “Jersey Boys” at a theater near Times Square. We walked through Central Park in light jackets and spent one morning touring the September 11th Memorial. We ventured into chapels and churches along the way, admiring the stained glass and architecture. We tried to get to Ellis Island but missed the last tour of the day and instead, stood on the shore in Battery Park where we could see Lady Liberty off in the distance, standing tall and beckoning immigrants toward the golden door.
Our room was on the 21st floor of a hotel in Midtown not far from Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center. Because we were up so high, the first morning we noticed huge plumes of inky, black smoke belching from the chimney of a building a couple of blocks from where we were staying. We decided that it must have been coming from a building’s incinerator. Trash, after all, is a fact of life in a big city.
So is noise. Honking horns, constant sirens,and the general rattle and clank in Manhattan greeted us each day as we left the lobby to venture out on our next adventure. We became part of the huddled mass of humanity at intersections, shoulder to shoulder with people of all races, languages, and religions waiting for the same traffic lights to turn green.
One morning in a crowded Starbucks, because something about me just screams “Minnesota” apparently, an older African-American gentleman asked me to watch his shopping bag while he used the restroom.When he returned, we visited for a bit over our lattes. He asked where we were from and told me he had been a writer on Broadway in his younger years for several comedians including Nipsy Russell and Flip Wilson. He left each of us with a joke as we ventured out into the sunshine. I thought about him throughout the rest of the day and smiled each time I did.
I choose to believe that people are basically good wherever you go. That the majority of us trust, and even look after, each other. That the majority of us do it all the time with grace and good humor. It’s really important that we remember this. Let’s remember this, okay?
I choose to believe that there’s room on the corner for us all.
That even with all the garbage, there aren’t as many rats as we’ve been led to believe we should fear.