Steven Reflects on Our Beautiful Neighborhood
In the beginning of the summer, New City assigns our new interns to do a "scavenger hunt" around the neighborhood, praying with eyes wide open as they settle into this new context. Here are the reflections of Steven, our intern from Duke Divinity School:
I think it is wise to begin by talking about who I am first. Mostly because to see the world that I see, one must know a fair bit about me. Since there is not enough space to give a full discourse, I will just explain a couple of things about my personhood. For the last six years or so I have worked in different churches doing youth and children’s ministry. It is because of these experiences, I am naturally drawn to see how Tiny Humans (a term I use for children) and youth interact in the world. A lot of the scavenger adventure reflects this type of sight in ways that I did not expect to take place. I hope I can fully describe with words what I was sensing. And, just like Tiny Humans, most of how I see and work in the world is via my senses. I am the type of person that must touch, taste, see, hear, even feel things to understand them. This aspect too is reflected in this post.
A mother and her son just walked into May Day Café. The mother is wearing an Iron Man mask and her son has a Thor mask on. “We are the Avengers today,” she smiled as she looked at another mother whom, before she even spoke, knew what kind of a day it was. They both smiled as the mother and son duo walked toward the counter, ordering an apple juice and a cookie.
This morning I did not think I would be feeling the way that I am feeling right now: feeling light as a feather and starry eyed. The people that I have spoken to, the things that I have seen are all so beautiful. Words seem to only speak to a small part of how I am feeling. But, to begin, I will start with my Midtown Global Market experience…
I arrived around 10:30 or so, which was odd because the place seemed empty. As I walked further into the heart of the market, I noticed that a lot of the different shops were still prepping for the day. In the center of the market was a man with a guitar surrounded by jumping Tiny Humans. “A, B, C, D, E, F, Cookie?” he sang to a group of screaming Tiny Humans: “No, silly” some said at the same time. Overjoyed, I sat down and watched as this man serenaded these Tiny Humans as their guardians whispered the songs along with their own Tiny Human(s).
I got up and looked for a shop where someone was not busy prepping food or something else. I found this little shop that was full of colors. Bright reds, blues, and greens exploded from the shop. At the back of the small shop was a woman on her phone. The shop seemed to be a mixture of Native American jewelry and Hispanic novelty items. When I first walked in, she did not say anything. I kept looking around and eventually I heard her say, “You look cold.” Apparently, my scarf and jacket combo was stylish but gave off a sense that I was cold. “I am a little but walking around is helping,” I told her. She pointed to some blankets on the rack next to her. She nodded as if to beckon me over. She did not say anything else really. I felt the blankets and decided to purchase a small one. She smiled. I asked her how she was. She nodded again and said, “I am good.” She seemed to not like small talk, but was very sweet. Right before I left, I heard behind me, “¡Abuela!” Then a little girl with pig-tales ran up to the woman behind the counter and is met with a swarm of kisses.
Without much luck talking to anyone else at the market, I decided it was time to go to the Mercado Central. A lot like the Global Market, there was hardly anyone there. The first place I stopped at was a jewelry store that had saint pendants that caught my eye. As soon as I entered, a woman sped in front of me to get behind the counter. “Hello!” She said. “Can I help with anything?” She continued. I told her I was just looking, and her face became sad. I tried to make small talk, but she was not interested. She left after that.
The next store I found myself in was a Christian book and novelty shop. I looked at the Spanish Bibles and the large number of rosaries. The man behind the counter just smiled at me. I greeted him and began to look at the Bibles. After a few moments, I went to the counter to look at the rosaries. The man stood up quickly and asked if he could help. “How much are the rosaries?” I asked. He then told me all the prices and then said I could come behind the counter and look at them. I want drawn to a red rosary where Madonna and Child looked as if they were both children. “I’ll take this one,” I said. “That is for Los niños. Are you sure you want that one?” The shop keeper asked me. I just smiled and nodded. He grinned, handing me the rosary.
It is difficult to fully explain what happened in both shopping venues, but what I saw in common between the two were the number of Tiny Humans that were present and affected the spaces. From a grown person singing silly songs for a mob of Tiny Humans, to how much Tiny Humans affect products or how people speak with one another. With these experiences in mind, I headed to Powderhorn Park.
When I was first shown the park, I was drawn to it. The amount of people that always seem to be present at the park gave a sense of connection between the people and the park. When I arrived, I decided that I was going to walk around the pond and pray. The sky is the bluest I have ever seen. The breeze is soft and cool as it hits my body. At the beginning of my walk, I see a group of school kids working on a science project. With rulers and notes in hand, they listened to their teachers on what to do next. I drew a breath, breathing in Gods beauty, and exhaling benediction. Then, as I kept walking I heard a man singing “Soul Train.” I am not sure what he was really listening to, but he was wearing a Parks polo with a bucket and trash grabber in hand. We walked past one another and nodded in greeting. Breathe in God’s beauty, breathe out benediction. I stopped a couple of times to take in the natural beauty of the space. From the green and softness of the trees, to how the wind blew against the pond water. It all was very beautiful. In with God’s beauty, out with a benediction. As my walk ended, I saw the Tiny Human park. Families were swarming the playground, laughing and giggling. I stopped and admired how great it was to see so many different people laughing and talking to one another. It seemed so natural. It seemed perfect. And, one last time, I took in God’s beauty, and then breathed out hope and love for the future to look like families at a playground.
I am not fully sure what the New City that Revelation is speaking about is a physical city. After today, I feel that the New City is more of a state of being. With the people that I encountered today, I never once felt unsafe or that I was doing something wrong. Furthermore, people seemed comfortable around me. We met one another in a mutual space and treated one another with love and respect. It also surprised me how many Tiny Humans I saw. So many laughs and giggles filled the spaces I was in. That is the hope and promise of these neighborhoods: that their Tiny Humans will not have to live through what they are presently living through. The hope in these communities, and the whole world, rest on the tiny shoulders of humans just learning to walk. I am not fully sure what this means for New City Church or what this means for Christianity but Jesus did not call the Tiny Humans to himself without cause. Rather, I believe that the innocence and love that Tiny Humans have reflected how the New City is to be and function. May it be so. Amen.