Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Many rivers to cross -- chaplaincy and bicycling in the Big Apple

Ok, so I only crossed one river (and, ok, that river is really a strait), But, my 35-mile bicycle ride, today included two thrilling passages high above the sparkling East River, as well as many great views of the Manhattan skyline and of the Hudson waterfront. The most exciting part for me, however, was that this was no pleasure ride -- it was a test run for regularly bicycle commuting later this summer from Bushwick, Brooklyn (where I will be subletting an apartment), all the way to the far Upper West Side and the Jewish Theological Seminary where I am running a chaplaincy education unit.

So, the ride you see in the map and link below was a working one: from JTS where I am staying right now to a student's clinical site in Queens this morning where I visited the amazing program the student is placed at this summer -- I rode complete with a tie and sport jacket in my pannier so I could 'clean up' when I got there!

Google map of route.

After my time with my student, I took off the sport jacket and tie and headed for the Williamsburg bridge and then NYU. I went through so many amazing neighborhoods, seeing the incredible ethnic diversity of Queens and Brooklyn's working class neighborhoods and their immigrant inhabitants. Seeing all these people striving to make lives here, I was reminded of the incredible power of the human spirit, a spirit that so often drives humans to acts of love and achievement even when they might have once faced great suffering at the hands of others. I was reminded, as I have been so many times during our chaplaincy program this summer, of Psalm 137, the Psalm that inspired the reggae song Rivers of Babylon. That a song authored by an ancient Hebrew poet could so move modern-day people from a very different culture in the Caribbean speaks to the universal nature of its theme -- the theme of the experience of exile. The pain of exile. And the refusal of the human spirit to just sit there in it.

My hope for my students this summer is they will find the strength to accompany their clients as they visit their places of painful exile. They will not flee from these spaces, I hope. But they will also be there with an outreached hand to help pull their clients up as their powerful human spirits seek new homes, new meanings and new freedoms.


One part of the ride I really enjoyed today was going through Flushing Meadow Park, the site of New York's two world fairs and the place where some of my earliest happy childhood memories (of being in the Space Park!) happened. Here is my bike near Yitzhak Rabin Walk there:


RCB said...

Lovely route. I worked in Bushwick Brooklyn when I was in Avodah at Make the Road By Walking a community organizing job. I ate some of the best sandwiches of my life in that neighborhood and there is where I developed my love for Dunkin Donuts Coffee. Yummy.

abayye said...

Coffee is good.

I'll let u know how Bushwick works out

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