New York strikes me as a City of low simmering kindness. It's not overt by any means. My brother tells a story about taking the subway in New York. The first time Clay came to visit me in the City, he decided to take the subway to my apartment in the West Village. He was standing in the middle of a busy station holding a map. According to legend, a young man was running past on his way to work. Without breaking stride, he asked my brother where he was going. "Christopher Street," Clay said. "Take the 1 or 9 downtown," said the New Yorker, and he kept on running.
My husband and I were together in New York for our first Christmas. We were standing in Rockefeller Center, surrounded by the throngs. The sun was going down and the lights were coming up. My husband kissed me under the tree. A woman turned to us at that moment and said, "It's nice to see two people in love." Her accent was unmistakably New York.
Maybe New York could only offer the smallest acts of kindness before September 11th. After all, the City is such a big place with so many people living in so many different circumstances. I have seen kindness seeping through the cracks of her tough veneer. On September 11th, those kind gestures flowed freely.
What to do on this anniversary? I'll say prayers. I'll cry no doubt watching survivors at Ground Zero. I want to find an appropriate, respectful way to mark the day in my own life, now outside the City.
I have decided to be openly grateful for my family today. I'm going to try like hell to be kind to my husband and my son. And when I find myself losing patience with my son for spilling soda or my husband for not putting his dishes in the dishwasher, I'll try to remember what others have lost and wish they could have again.
I am wrestling now with the concept of courage in my daily life. What am I capable of doing in spite of fear? I cannot imagine the courage of standing by a disabled friend unable to make it down the stairs of a burning building. Or being disabled and realizing that to attempt the stairs might prevent others from making it out alive. What must go through the heart of a man at that moment?
Today I hope I can muster the courage to be vulnerable. Let kindness seep through the cracks of my own guarded self.
1 week ago