The myth is that New Yorkers are rude, unfriendly, and always in a hurry. I’ve heard it many times, and I’m sure you have too. Don’t believe it! I recently spent 10 days in upper Manhattan in an area called Fort Washington. It’s as far northwest as you can go. If you go any further, you’d be in the Hudson River, doing the back stroke on your way into New Jersey. From Fort Tryon Park, you can see the George Washington Bridge that connects the two states. Fort Washington, rich with history dating back to the Revolutionary War, is the highest point on the island of Manhattan, and I believe it. I got quite a workout pushing my grandson’s stroller up the streets from 190th to 181st Streets.
Now back to what I was saying about the misnomers about New Yorkers. I tell people back in North Carolina where I live that my daughter’s neighborhood is a little like Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood. I say that because you can’t venture outside the apartment building without someone stopping to say hello. It is a very close-knit community, where you can count on someone somewhere having your back. Since residents walk almost everywhere they go, they know their neighbors. People walk their dogs, take their kiddies to Bennett Park, meet up at the neighborhood restaurants or bars, run into each other at Frank’s Groceries or Hilltop Drugstore. When I was out for a walk with the infamous dogs, Kizzie and Ella, people recognized them. One lady always stopped to pet them and offer each a treat. On a few occasions, people would see me out with my grandson and ask if I was his grandmother. Sweet!
Everywhere I went, people held doors for me, helped me get the stroller up or down steps, or offered assistance knowing my presence in New York was a little like a fish out of water. The church that my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson attend is a multi-ethnic community of believers who are passionate about giving back to their community. As one example of their commitment, they have partnered with other groups to provide free bags of food to the poor over the Thanksgiving holiday. It is an ambitious project with a goal of reaching 800 families. The church also has a program called Neighborhood Renewal, which reaches out to people not only to share the Gospel but to assist in their individual needs. Because they love their neighborhood, the church membership understands the importance of making a difference in economic justice, the arts, and the quality of life for children. I applaud the work of Uptown Community Church, the most welcoming church I have ever visited. Getting to know people from other cultures and other parts of the world was a joy for me. What I have learned is that we all have the same desires: to care for our families, nurture friendships, and make a difference.
I am back at home in the suburbs on a quiet street where I seldom run into my neighbors. That’s sad and pathetic! Instead of walking everywhere, I back my car out of the garage and hit the road. I am once again waking up when I wake up and not to the sound of noisy traffic outside. If that makes me sound grumpy or set in my ways, then I confess. However, my time in New York was a joy for the time I spent with my daughter and her family and getting to know her friends. New York is a welcoming place, divided into communities where people help people. Y’all get what I’m saying?