Top Image: Photo taken by me of Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen
La Rue (The street) | 1896 | on display the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art
It was a cold and windy Monday in Midtown, Manhattan New York. I spent the morning saying goodbye to my brother-in-law and my niece at their Jersey City apartment and walked through the early morning sunlight empty streets with my sister-in-law. The air had a stinging coldness to it, that pricked my cheeks as we hurried along hundred year old streets, passed brownstones and beautiful iron fencing. We were going to Jenna’s co-working space she leased for her consulting business.
Standing on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, looking at Manhatten.
The building was a beautiful remodeled redbrick with a huge glass front atrium outfitted with a smartly dressed front desk guard. As we stepped passed him I smelled his heavy cologne and was happy for the repose of the elevator. As I stepped off the elevator, I was greeted by a welcoming site, a modern découpage art piece of the American flag. We checked in, did a quick office tour before grabbing steaming hot coffees and closing the door to her office to warm up.
A space inside the shared office, a “no cell phone zone,” where people are encouraged to rest during the work day.
I finished the last of my preparation work for the trade show I would be attending the next day, and Jenna was very kind to print my “cheat sheet” of booths and people I wanted to visit. As I said goodbye, and prepared myself for the PATH (an underground train that runs between Jersey City and Midtown) and the blistering cold, I felt excited for the week ahead. I walked past the lobby guard and his repugnant cologne once again, pushed open the lobby door and braved the icy wind.
The PATH station to Manhatten.
In the back of a cab heading up to Midtown from Wallstreet.
New York has the reputation of being unfriendly, most megacities have crime, and when you travel alone you tend to be even more guarded. Ironically though, I would highly encourage you to travel alone. Although I spent the weekend with family, it was when I traveled alone that I met people of New York. The man at the automated ticket machine asking for my help purchasing a ticket for the PATH train. The travelers on the PATH who dared not make eye contact with anyone. The young man sitting by me at the “single dinners” counter who was on his second job, this time a start up, weeding his way through life in the big city. Each person with their own unique background, dreams and story of how they got to New York.
Above Image: Photo taken by me of Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) Water Lilles 1914-26Oil on canvas, three panelsMrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, 1959 center panel on display the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.
Later that day, I found myself on a cushion at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art with a mostly full steaming hot almond milk latte and next to cheerful older woman reading the paper. I had interrupted her reading to inquire if the seat next to her was available. I had just finished searching the entire gift shop looking for the perfect little souvenir to bring home for the girls, and was feeling a bit deflated because I didn’t find anything I really liked (or was willing to spurge on!). My feet were feeling weary after walking through the gallaries and from my adventures earlier that morning.
She was a petite woman, perhaps the same size as me, but her age gave her a bit of a rounded spine. She had kind eyes, neat gray hair and a smart camel colored outfit. She had a bag that slid down to the floor a couple times, which I retrieved for her. As I sat next to her, she shared with me highlights of her life. She was born of immigrant parents in 1928. Her family lived in Brooklin and were poor. Her mother and father both worked. She told me that she has three degrees, but didn’t tell me what they were in. I asked her twice, but she didn’t’ answer, perhaps that wasn’t what was important about them. She shared stories about her family, her husband, two daughters, and her grandchildren. She told me how proud she was that her daughter was divorsed, and that she was happy for her. I didn’t ask why she was divorced, but I did suggest she pray for her daughter. Then she told me she was Jewish but not religious. I told her that perhaps she could pray, that praying was like using a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
We talked more about her past, and she told me a story of a lady who had been unkind to her when she was 19 years old. And about her very first dance were a kind young man asked her to dance, but she just wasn’t interested. Her reason? Why simply put, “he had a mustache that I didn’t like!” I assured her that was a perfectly good reason not to want to dance with someone, but it made her light up and giggle when she thought about it. She thanked me for being kind several times during our conversation, but besides being polite, I did enjoy the stories she was sharing. She also commented on not understanding why people aren’t kind to one another. She said she often found herself spending more time around men than women, because women tended to be unkind. We talked a little about Cain and Abel from the Bible. “It’s a heart thing,” I told her.
We continued to chat for a while, until she remember she had a film to catch late that afternoon at the museum. I thanked her for sharing her story, and wished her and her divorced daughter my very best. Promising to myself that I would pray for her. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would live to be 94 years old, what lesson would I want to share with a younger woman I met at a museum. Knowing myself I would want to share my life stories, struggles and lessons learned.
I don’t know if she decided to pray for her daughter after our meeting, but I hope I was able to help her see other people are kind. She shared several messages of kindness with me, and I know that our world needs more people to spread the message of kindness and true Christ-centered love.
My art museum friend may not have shared her name with me, but she did share her life story, and a lasting message.
The Dove, a symbol of hope and the Holy Spirit, followed me after Sunday morning mass.