It’s 1 a.m., and there’s a helicopter hovering overhead. Seems typical for New York City these days.
I was part of the crowd that fled New York for a bit during this pandemic year. So maybe I’m part of the problem. Upon my return, some days, I feel like all I see is human misery. That obviously isn’t the whole story, but consider a few scenes. Healthy-looking, well-dressed, good-looking men in their 30s searching through the overflowing trash cans on the streets — all with a daze to their faces. I assume opioids. One that I watched picked up a Starbucks iced coffee or latte, or some such — someone had left a quarter of the cup unconsumed — and drank it during a pandemic as if it were his own and as if it wasn’t just in the garbage. Grown men are passed out on the streets in the middle of the day. Screaming men insist on money.
In the past, I would have more takers when I offered food. This past Sunday, John, a man with one leg outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, was overjoyed by the offer and was grateful for the chicken he requested, which sure smelled like a feast worthy of God’s creation. He responded as a human being. I see animal-like anger on the streets all too often now. I honestly don’t know where it is safe anymore. And I say that as someone who grew up in a housing project here. I like to think I’ve seen a few things and don’t get scared that easily.
But there’s mercy in this. So much of our lives are filled with false securities. We don’t know when our lives will end. We simply must live them in love.
Speaking of humility, as I write, I’ve just gotten back from my first real event in a long time. I say “real” because, while it was the National Review Institute’s virtual gala, I got to be in person with some colleagues at a small gathering thanks to the chairman of the board of NRI and his wife, who hosted us in their home. It was such a joy to see friends — people I love and am blessed to work with.
I was honored to lead the opening prayer — the invocation. And while it was a powerful start to the night, I made a mistake. We asked, if it be his will, that God grant us the gift of an ethical and effective vaccine for Christmas. And … Rosh Hashanah. I, of course, meant Hanukkah! When a dear, wonderful Jewish man who played Bach for us thanked me for the prayer, I apologized to him for my ridiculous mistake.
As only a gentleman would, he said: “It made perfect sense to me. We are all longing for a new year. And none of us feel like we are there yet. And, let’s face it: Everyone knows Hanukkah, but the new year is the great celebration.”
I know that the knowledge of the Jewish new year was a sign of hope for me. He was sweet to make me feel better about the flub, but he’s also right about the desire of our hearts to get out of this 2020 and begin again!
No calendar change is going to fix this, of course. Loving one another, as he did there to me, is the way to go. I can’t pretend to know the right answer in every situation on city streets. But ask God to show you the way. It’s the only way. We need to cry out with him to love like him.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.