Riding the Ferry

This summer I had the opportunity to take my children to New York City for a couple of days.  We visited my sister who had just moved to Roosevelt Island, and we stayed at the Navy Lodge on Staten Island and took the ferry to Manhattan to see the city.

With such a short trip (only one full day), we had chosen to give the kids as much of the “immigrant” experience as we could, visiting Liberty island and Ellis Island, walking up the very steps where immigrants had come to have their “6 second physical” and then going to visit the Tenement Museum, where a young actress dressed as an actual person from a century ago interacted with us in her small flat, her answers based upon journals of the period.  It was true living history.

On our one full day in the city, we were late getting on the subway to Whitehall Station, which meant we just barely missed the 9:30 p.m. ferry back to Staten Island.  The giant glass doors were closing just as we headed up the escalator.  Exhausted from our trek all over the city, we purchased ice cream from some vendors and I got the kids a thankfulness journal so they could record their experiences in the city.  Then we boarded the 10 p.m. ferry, went to the second level, and headed out to the deck where we could enjoy the cool evening and see the Statue of Liberty all lit up at night.

Out there with us on the outer deck was a group of young people, one of them holding a guitar.  As the massive ferry began to move slowly across the water, this group of young people (from Canada I later found out) began singing worship songs, the guitar and their voices clearly ringing out over the water towards Liberty Island, Lady Liberty holding her bright torch high against the night.  They sang a couple of songs I knew and I joined in, singing, “Lead me to the cross…where your love poured out/Bring me to my knees…Lord, I lay me down…”  It was a beautiful twenty minutes or so of spontaneous worship in an evocative setting with a group of strangers singing to the same Lord.  It was by far my best memory of NYC, better by far than the flash of Times Square or the piles and piles of toys at FAO Schwarz.  It was a moment that rang with truth and beauty and worship of the one who created both.  It was a gift.

Later I reflected on the fact that had we not been delayed, we would have missed that moment.  It was not in our itinerary.  How often do the best things in life come when they aren’t in the schedule?  And I thought about Arborbrook and how we are endeavoring to make learning a joy and how this brief trip to the city was that for my children and for me.  We could have tried to stuff more activities and events into our trip, but we wouldn’t have enjoyed the few things we chose to do as much as we did.  And I reflected on the terrible hurry Americans seem to be in to do things faster and get there quicker- even in education.  We want our five year olds to read faster than other people’s five year olds, for our ten year olds to do advanced math that used to be reserved for 13 year olds.  But why?  If we get to the destination thirty minutes later than those around us, what have we really lost?  Rather, if we slow down and take in our surroundings, what more have we gained in the journey?