Friday, October 07, 2011
I suppose the typical American dream is to own a big house in a real nice area, what one might call an “upscale” area. Huge homes with gatehouses, pools, plenty of acreage. Maybe I am wrong. But it seems that the media holds up such places as the most desirable.
When I was in the northeast not too long ago, I traveled to Brooklyn almost every day for the two weeks I was there. I took the train and subway and one day went as far as Coney Island. But most days I went to the Lutheran Medical Center to see my aunt, who was hospitalized there. She spent several weeks there and then moved on to a rehabilitation facility. She is doing better these days.
The Lutheran Medical Center is the place where I was born. It is located on 2nd Avenue and 56th Street, in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. My aunt tells me that years ago, the area was heavily Swedish. Then, as time passed, other ethnic groups moved in – mostly Irish and Italians. They eventually moved on and now, from what I was able to see, the area is heavily Latino. In the hospital, there are directional signs in several languages – English, Spanish, Arabic and Russian. There is also a sign directing people to the Chinese section of the hospital.
I would walk the several blocks from the subway to the hospital and loved what I saw. There were kids playing in the streets and sidewalks. There is a park near the hospital and kids were there, too, in abundance. Their mothers sat and watched them, chatting with each other as the kids had all kinds of fun, spraying each other from a fountain, skipping rope, playing ball. An ice cream and hot dog van was parked right outside the gate and did a brisk business.
The area is very residential. There are mainly row houses. There were little gardens in front of many of them, with statues of the Virgin Mary and flowers in some of the gardens. People sat on the steps, chatting away the morning. There were stores, too, up on the main avenue. All kinds of stores. Small grocery stores and coffee shops with counters. There were flower shops and hair salons, store-front churches and newspaper stores. Liquor stores and cleaners, clothing shops and vegetable stands. All of these had windows that were wonderfully decorated. I took some pictures of them. The streets were teeming with life. I felt safe walking around. One day, there was a large crowd – there was a ball game and just outside the small field was a food bazaar. Vendors were there, seemingly representing every nationality and food. I walked through the area slowly and was amazed at the variety of languages and dress. Yet everyone got along – it actually had a natural feel to it, all the differences being gathered on a street in Brooklyn. It was beautiful.
There is such richness to Brooklyn. My thoughts have returned there often since I returned here, to Georgia. Admittedly, I have a bias. I think of those kids on the Brooklyn streets who are learning so much from each other – they are picking up their “street smarts.” May what they learn serve them, and us, well.
The big churches up there are not doing well. People cannot relate to the old, established style of religion. Life goes on – they are finding their own, the best they can. God comes through for them and in them. He lives in the untypical, the places we somehow have forgotten and moved away from. He is here, too, in the homes that have big pools. But something tells me he is harder to find there.