So….this small-town girl recently took a trip to the Big City – NYC to be exact. It was a super quick trip…we spent a whole 48 hours there. But boy did I see, smell, taste, hear and touch so many things in that short window of time. (And used a lot of hand sanitizer, let me tell you!)
I’m from a small town. The biggest city I’ve ever lived in was Tulsa, Oklahoma. Well – a suburb of Tulsa actually. Broken Arrow. So, that doesn’t really count.
I think our tallest building is 15 stories in downtown Warren. My city is lush and green and fragrant with grass and trees and flowers in bloom right now.
Shopping shuts down at 9 pm. Six on Sundays. Restaurants stay open a bit past that, but not much. I’m in bed by 10 and up by 5 most days. And I sit on my porch in the morning and the only sounds I hear are the birds singing and the occasional car passing by heading to an early shift.
Traffic? Well – we have two lane highways and the only time it’s bumper-to-bumper is at the exit to the mall at Christmas-time.
I looked like a total tourist in NYC, which is okay because let’s face it – I was. There was no being cool and fitting in. All I could do was look up and down and all around, mouth wide open and eyes glazed over with the sheer magnitude of it all. The song Bright Lights Big City came to mind. A lot.
Overwhelming was the word of the weekend. Let’s see, in 48 hours…we took an Uber, attended the Jerusalem Banquet and celebrated Israel. Next year in Jerusalem. Amen.
We navigated the subway system (kind of) and hit up Times Square at midnight. Twice. You would have thought it was noon – it was so bright and alive with activity. The stores and restaurants were open. Why? Why did that all need to be open at midnight? My mind couldn’t comprehend. It was sooooo different.
I bought socks at 1:30 in the morning, just because I could. And no one thought it was weird at all – except me, of course.
There was a family sitting behind us when we stopped for a break – mama changing her newborn’s diaper and toddler running around. Like it was normal to be up and around at that time with the kiddos. Sooooo different.
We ate bagels and cheesecake. We hit up the coffee shop (because after staying up in Times Square until 2 am, you really needed coffee in the morning).
We walked probably 30 miles and rode more than that on the subway. There was the 9/11 memorial and museum. Sobering to say the least. The Statue of Liberty. Very inspiring.
We got lost. Found a TJ Maxx or two (my favorite store). Had fun wandering. I got my picture taken under an address on Broadway (my maiden name) – so nice of them to name a street after me. I must be famous.
We found the Trinity Church and I wondered if the Templar’s Treasure could really be hidden beneath Parkington Lane. Is there a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence? Hmmm….
We walked around the lobby of the Plaza Hotel. Very ritzy. Who can stay there? The rickshaw pedicab through Central Park was very cool. We saw the bridge that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan stood on at the end of You’ve Got Mail. “Hello, Shop Girl.”
There was more. So much more. I marveled at the lack of green spaces. Where were the flowers and trees and grass and birds chirping? Where was the fresh air? No where, I’m telling you. When you took a deep breath, it was all dog pee and car fumes. Yum! The first thing I did when we got out of the city was take a deep breath. Ahhhhh….fresh air again!
And the grime that washed off every night when I got back to the hotel was truly, truly disgusting. Layers of it. I want to wash out the inside of my suitcase because it held the clothes that collected the grime as I walked through the city.
My morning view was concrete and sky scrapers instead of flora and fauna. So so so so different. How do people live here?
They talked differently – the accents and jargon and phrases were unique to NYC. Their schedules were different. The view was different. They way they grocery shop and commute and do life – different. Almost everything was different.
But here’s the deal. Different isn’t bad. I’m glad it was different. If it had been exactly like Ohio, I would’ve been disappointed.
So, these are my thoughts on NYC:
There’s no place like where God has called you.
I had fun in the city. It was exciting. I’m sure we’ll go back and visit, but my heart isn’t yearning to be there. My heart yearns for Ohio. For my people. For our church family. There’s no place like home.
I’m sure if someone from NYC would come to my little town, they would feel uncomfortable and lost. They may enjoy the peace and quiet for a season, but they’d likely be itching to get home.
They’d wonder, “How do people live here? There’s nothing to do? Everything closes at 9? Are you serious?” They’d probably be early everywhere they went because there isn’t any traffic or waiting for subways and busses.
They’d get home and take a deep breath and think, “Wow did I miss this. Home.”
There’s no place like home. Travel. See the world. But don’t despise home. Don’t take it for granted. Embrace it. Breathe it in. Enjoy it. Every bit of it. There’s no place quite like where God has called you to be.
It’s okay to be different.
It was different. (Did I mention that?) I expected it to be. And it was. And I was glad. And I’m sure if I spent enough time there, I’d get it. I’d understand the jargon and learn the subway system (well….maybe).
They didn’t try to change to accommodate me. They didn’t try to be Ohio to make me more comfortable. I wanted something different, and I got it.
I think at times we as the church, in my opinion, try too hard to become “Ohio.” We feel to attract tourists, we need to be more like what they’re comfortable with. Let’s look like Ohio and smell like Ohio and act like Ohio or the tourists might leave. They might not come back.
Here’s a news flash – you can be relevant and different at the same time!
Chances are if they’re visiting, they want something different than where they’re at right now. It’s okay to be different. To use different jargon, like righteousness and holiness. It’s okay to act differently and dress differently and sound differently. It’s okay to be in the world and not of it. Selah….
Thanks for the adventures, NYC. I enjoyed the city, but there’s no place like home.