I've been in New York City for three days now attending the World Journalism Institute. The couple thousand meandering words I have written since arriving signify that the city has disoriented me. My eyes, seasoned all my life by visions of creeks and cows, have seen so much furious living in the past three days as to almost have seen nothing at all.
Each morning I sink in the elevator to the ground floor of the apartment building, and the lobby spits me out into a street I do not understand. The push of the people exceeds me, particularly when involving umbrellas. The other students join the motion, and I cling to them with my eyes. I follow their forms with my feet on the way to the building where class convenes. "God sets the lonely in families." Isn't it the truth? He sets the directionless in the company of compassionate navigators.
In class our bright-eyed rows learn that if you can't think like a Christian you can forget about writing like one. The instructor wears a polka-dotted navy tie, and a blue coat with a white handkerchief peeking from the pocket-respectable clothing for the respectable enterprise of journalism. He tells us that no assignment an editor can give will be boring, for every person is unique, a walking image of God.
A siren rises to the window like the lusty wail of an infant. We sit, our attention fixed upon the instructor.
We cannot pause our studies now to consider the siren seriously. No man is an island, of course, but in a city this size you can't adopt everybody's emergencies. If our instructor had a moment of silence for everybody's siren, he would not say much.
The surging traffic reflects from the windows on the screen in the front of the room. Its surging sound, discerned even through the walls, serves as the city equivalent of the wind in the trees.
A trick, I bet, to liking New York City, is believing that the people here have interpersonal connections and wounds. It is hard for me to see in the lone passersby. I do not yet know how to discern the feeling behind their faces.
In the late evening I stand in the apartment of several other students. One girl plays her violin and we sing the old American melody: "Here I raise mine Ebenezer / Hither by thy help I'm come." At the word hither I look out onto Fifth Avenue, where enormous photographed Victoria's Secret models stare out above the tiny people walking back and forth.
Has God in his wisdom delivered this country kid, chicken-butchering and bread-kneading, tied up everlastingly in the strings of an apron, to New York City for a few weeks to see what she can see?
He has. May He teach me, by some miracle, to learn to love one face at a time.