For my journalism class this fall, I'm thinking about giving my Manhattan students the assignment of finding a story at the end of a subway line.
If you live in Manhattan, where all the subway lines converge, there's no reason to go to the end of one of the lines. Everything worth seeing and doing---the Broadway plays, the hip bars, the nice restaurants, the tourist spots---are in Manhattan. It can take hours to get to the end of a line, so it's usually cheap and there's usually little there but poverty and crime.
But I've been to the very last stop of several subway lines, and I find the best stories hidden there.
For instance, at the end of the A line, I found a Catholic school that had been educating the community for 140 years and is now facing declining enrollments and possible closure.
At the end of the J line I found the Allen A.M.E. Cathedral, a church that is building and redeveloping homes and providing a Christian education for the community.
I also found unexpected affluence, since some people live at the end of the subway line because they don't need to take the subway. At the end of the F line, I found the prep school whose students brought the swine flu from Mexico on their spring break. The bus took me to the prep school through streets that looked like suburbia.
In another suburban part of Queens, I found a Korean church that is trying to move out of a basement into a new building, only to find the community outraged that the church is ruining the suburban feel of the neighborhood. Despite the chilled welcome, the church is still moving to try to reach out to those in the community.
So while these stories can take hours and effort to reach, I find that they're often worth it. People who work where it's least convenient and most hidden often do the best and most faithful work.