On September 8, 2001 I went to Hoboken, New Jersey to attend the annual Hoboken Festival, which I had been going to for a number of years. At one point I decided to take a rest, so I found a nearby park bench. I sat there for a while, just looking across the Hudson river to downtown Manhattan, where I used to work. There were people and sounds all around me, but I had this sense of peace – of being alone with God.
As I sat there I began thinking about how things change as we go through life. For example, the park in which I was sitting was once a steamship pier, through which I used to ship industrial equipment when I was in the export shipping business. I was also reminded of how the Manhattan skyline across the river had changed a number of times over the past years, even over the past 27 years since I had last worked there.
The building in which I worked back then didn’t have a name, just a number (165 Broadway). Right next to it there was a taller and more impressive building, called the Singer Building, which I understood had, for a brief time, been the tallest building in the world. I believe it was considered to be the first “skyscraper”. The construction of this and other buildings in that area began to give the Manhattan skyline a truly distinctive appearance. Over the years the “tallest buiding” title had been passed on to other buildings – The Woolworth Building, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building.
The Manhattan skyline continued to change with the construction of each of these and some other impressive buildings. But in more recent years, the changes were not only due to the construction of new buildings, but also the taking down of some of the older ones, including the the Singer Building and its next door neightbor – my former work place – 165 Broadway. Those buildings, and others in that immediate area, were no more. They had all been taken down to make way for new buildings, which resulted in a new skyline, now dominated by the by the twin towers known as The World Trade Center – which now held the record for being the tallest buildings in the world. I thought to myself, “Someday, this too will change, but certainly not in my lifetime”.
Looking at and thinking about all this, I began to wonder – “How could human beings visualize, plan, and then build this complex, beautiful, ever-changing, but practical skyline?” “How could the people who made up the most diverse population in the world, for the most part, actually work together in peace, in these buildings which made up the skyline, despite their differences in religion, race, and ethnic origin, politics, and financial and social status?” “How could human beings pull this off?” “These things were just too impossible for human being to accomplish”.
I wasn’t expecting an answer, but remember my situation at the moment I was sitting on a park bench, where despite all the people and sounds around me, I had this sense of peace – of being alone with God. And when you are in that situation, you can expect to hear God respond to your questions. God’s response was to remind me of what Jesus told His doubting disciples – “for motals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible”(Matthew 19:26). God was reminding me that while this all semed to be the work of human minds and hands, it was really God’s creation, using God-given natural and human resources. I still can’t comprehend it all, so I’m just content to believe that all that was and is good and beautiful across the river was an example of God at work and a sign of hope. I was reminded of the words of our former Bishop, Alfred Johnson – “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good”. That’s the way it was when I experienced the presence of God while sitting on a park bench in Hoboken on September 8, 2001.
Then there was September 11, 2001. The skyline I was sure would last well beyond my time in this world was suddenly broken. The lives and hopes of so many thousands of innocent people were broken. Not just the 3,ooo or so who died or were injured in the World Trade Center towers, but also those in the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and in a field in a place I had never heard of – Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Then there were the countless others who suffered in some way, directly or indirectly, because of the human caused evil events of that day Americans now call Patriots Day, or simply 9/11. I can’t comprehend how human beings can use the inellectual, physical, and even spiritual capability God has given them, to do that. But one thing I can comprehend is this: nothing- absolutely nothing – can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:37-39). My knowledge and experience of God’s love tells me that God is will continue get us through difficult times like these. Yes, I can compehend, that “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good”
During the past year my daughter, Christine, and I have taken some day trips to Manhattan. For me these are trips down memory lane. For her I think it’s a way of getting to better know me by being able to in a sense touch the things and places of my past. On June 16 of this year, we spent the day walking through downtown Manhattan. For me it was my first visit there since shortly after the 9/11 attacks. We also took a ride on the Staten Island ferry. On the ferry boat ride my attention was drawn once again to the downtown Manhattan skyline. My first thought was that it seemed to be almost totally changed. I liked the old skyline better. But then my mind went back to what I heard from God while sitting on a park bench in Hoboken on September 8, 2001.I was reminded that it didn’t matter whether I liked the old or the new Manhattan skyline. What mattered was that I could again see God at work in downtown Manhattan. Yes, The World Trade Center towers, and a lot of other buildings, were gone forever. But in their place new towers now appeared, and others were under constructon. What mattered was that all kinds of people were still living and working together in peace in those buildings, despite their differences. What mattered was that God was again creating (or re-creating), with God-given natural and human resources. What mattered was that once again, God was demonstrating right before my eyes – “with God, all things are possible“. What mattered was that in all of what I had seen and heard, it’s true that God is still fulfilling faith-based hopes. What matters is that it is still true that “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good”.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray