Walk Softly and Carry an Empty Purse
I was in New York City this week to meet with customers. I love NYC—especially this time of year. The storefronts on 5th Ave are brimming with Christmas cheer, and there’s a crispness in the air that signals the subtle change from fall to winter.
As much as I love the city, I always empty my purse of all but the necessities, just in case. Hey—I don’t want to replace my prescriptions, my Costco card, and every single discount card I own in the event of a mugging. Nope! Ain’t nobody got time for that. I carry my ID, my corporate card and the earbuds that I always have in place (but with nothing playing through them so that the solicitors leave me alone. Oh, yeah. Midwesterner street smarts, you guys. I got ‘em.). Go ahead and steal my purse full of zero things, muggers. Joke’s on you.
This visit came on the heels of the terrorist attacks on Paris. I talked to my children about what had happened. They were fearful that terrorists could come to our city. I agreed that it’s possible. Wide-eyed, they asked what we can do about it. I told them that all we can do is just live our lives and refuse to let fear take hold. We know who holds our future, and He wants nothing but the best for us. Even it is something we can’t possibly understand in this lifetime, we don’t need to understand it. We aren’t meant to.
While I was in New York, I had meetings in Times Square. I met a friend at a restaurant packed with people. I walked around Manhattan enjoying the sights and sounds and peculiarities only found in New York. Even in the midst of uncertainty, life goes on if you allow it.
One of my customers is in an office across the street from where the World Trade Center once stood. When I visit them, I sit there, looking out the window and wondering how they ever got the courage to come back to work–to that building, across from two charred, empty holes in the ground. I am not sure I could have been so brave so soon.
I had one moment of panic when I walked from my hotel to grab a slice of pizza in Hell’s Kitchen. I was walking through one of those dimly lit, graffiti-addled construction labyrinths when I came around the corner, and someone grabbed my ankle. I screamed, but no one came running. I was all alone in the dark—I thought. I looked down, and a homeless gentleman (clearly as panicked as I was) stared up at me in surprise. I woke him up with my loud footsteps, and he was afraid I would step on him in the dark. We didn’t exchange a word. He let go of me, and I kept walking. He has no idea how close he came to getting kicked in the face. (B and I are avid Walking Dead fans, and I was channeling Rick Grimes for just a split second. You go for the brain stem when someone grabs you. It’s just what you do.)
I took the long way back to my hotel, and my heart pounded for what felt like hours.
When terror is thousands of miles away, it’s easy to tell your kids that even in the worst case, if tragedy finds its way to our doorstep, we will awake in the presence of God. It’s another thing if it actually finds your family. Would I be able to hand my children over to God without resenting Him for taking them? I thought a lot this week about what I tell my kids about our confidence in the future and the contradiction that is often in my heart.
My last night in New York, I decided not to take the long way around the construction walkway. I walked right through it, with the intention of finding that man, not stepping on him, and apologizing for scaring him half to death. More for me than for him, honestly. He wasn’t there, but it didn’t seem quite so terrifying when I walked into the darkness with intention instead of trepidation.
I want to be smart in this life, but I want to be brave. I want to trust Jesus so completely that no matter what comes, I walk through it with intention, compassion and confidence in His plan for my life.
(I’ll still empty my purse when I need to, though. That limited-edition MAC lipstick isn’t going to replace itself.)