The acronym for the lower east side of New York, LES, often brings out extreme reactions. There are those who are convinced it is the evil drug ridden haven of yesterday, awash in substance abuse, chaos, and waste. Others believe that while it may look a little better than yesterday, if only one could see the true picture one would know the evil which dangerously boils just below, ready to entrap the weak, na?ve, or those yet to be initiated. There are those, still a minority, who see opportunity. Everything is possible. Hope is being realized. Now is the time!
As a new resident to the neighborhood there is no question of yesterday’s ruin. If someone told me their recent comments included the words, “Your country is laid waste, your cities burned down. Your land is destroyed by outsiders while you watch, reduced to rubble by barbarians” (Isaiah 1.7) I don’t think I would even bother to argue. What is the point? There is a lot of wasted buildings, relics of yesterday, potential and hope lying in ruins. Whatever I might say, it is still yet to be.
Yet it is coming. Hope abounds at ever corner. People walk for the most part without fear. Glimpses of beauty and wonder are clearly present.
I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. I do know pain is present in rich suburbs as well as the lower east side. I do know how greed and selfishness infect hearts of all races, education, and domicile. I do know how suffering crosses every boundary we try to erect in protecting ourselves. Do the cynic I say “welcome to reality”.
I also know how communities harbor grace and wonder. If I want the best pickle in the world I head for the lower east side. Looking for fantastic gelato? It is just around the corner from the apartment. Interested in great music, a grill cheese sandwich, or home cooking? I know the place. Looking for real hope? Ah, that is where you and I come in. We hold God’s keys.
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