A Redhead’s Reverie In New York

August 01, 2002 | Sydney Boyd

An alarm clock buzzed. Denying the morning, I threw my sleeping bag over my head. The clock continued to buzz.

Facing reality, I slowly poked my head from under my haven of darkness and groggily opened my eyes, halfway.

The blurry world that greeted me took a minute to register. I rolled over. The sound of cars’ horns, brakes screeching, and people yelling finally penetrated my sluggish mind. New York.

My eyes traveled to the villainous alarm clock and saw that it was 4 a.m. Groaning, I covered my head again.

New York Reflections

Since returning from New York (I was a team member from the Skagit Adventist School in “Operation We Care”), many have asked me “So, how was your trip?” I usually smile and say, “Oh, it was great!”

I have yet to discover a way to convey in few words how inspirational it was. But, here, I’ll try my best to tell my experience.

Monday Morning

I had kitchen duty, flipping 20 pancakes at a time. My first pancake crumpled, and the cook, David, picked it up and tossed it into the garbage. “If it doesn’t look nice, we don’t eat it.”

I smiled.

“You need to have more attitude,” he told me. Putting hand to hip, I began flipping pancakes to oldies tunes floating from his flour-covered radio. By 7:30 a.m., I was the expert pancake flipper.

Ready to conquer New York later that morning, I set out on the subway, following our fearless guide, Jonathan. He led us to a stately building to—file! From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I studied the alphabet thoroughly and was rewarded with three paper cuts.

The Safe Horizons organization I was working for grants funds to those who lost possessions during the Sept. 11 attack and helps them get back on their feet.

While I examined my paper cuts, feeling sorry for myself, I noticed a woman carrying a slipping pile of files. I realized with a start that she did this every day.

Humbled, I returned to my work with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that this work I didn’t enjoy would benefit thousands.

Passing Out

Later in the week, I passed out “Signs of the Times” magazines, Greek-language “Steps to Christ” booklets, and pins that read “God Loves New York.”

At first I was petrified and walked stiffly, feeling stupid with my large backpack and an awkward bunch of literature in my arms.

Noticing, my sponsor reminded me that every person that walked past me was a lost soul. He said I should at least give them a choice to reject the truth and commanded me not to let anyone go past without being offered something.

Turning off the part of my brain that worries about what people think of me, I resolved to do just that. Later, my sponsor bought flowers, and I passed them out, particularly targeting the elderly. That was much easier.

The people of New York were shocked to be offered something free by a crazy, red-headed teenager with pigtails and a mile-wide smile, telling them to have a good day because God loved them.

Friends behind me saw the reactions I could not see—people responding to my beaming smile, walking away with a bit more lift in their step.

Thank Goodness, It’s...

Friday. I traveled to Times Square to reach out to people who were doing something called “Radical.” We were instructed to just start talking to them. If the topic of God came up, great; if it didn’t, it was enough that we were giving them the time of day.

Determined, I again shut off my brain to what others might think when they saw a smiling teenager with an outstretched hand, commenting on the lovely day (in fact, it was raining).

By the end of the day, my head hurt from going so far out of my comfort zone. As I walked down the sidewalk in Times Square, the dirt and grime billowed into my face. People passed me as if I were an ant. What a country girl I was!

Pushing Jesus

I passed a middle-aged man in a wheelchair—and just kept walking. He was pushing himself through the crowd of people who rushed by as if he were a plastered-to-the-sidewalk wad of gum.

For 30 feet, I fought with myself. Then I turned and marched back: “Sir, would you like some help?”

I pushed him down the street and across an intersection. I grinned, “Have a good day, and God bless!”

His radiant smile revealed three missing teeth. I crossed the street back to my group, feeling as if I had just pushed Jesus across a busy intersection.

You Had to Be There

It’s impossible to describe all that happened in New York, and what I’ve written is not even half of what we did. Nor am I altogether sure mere words can describe what went on. There are some things you just have to be there to understand.

But hey, it was great! •