Limits of Perception

indexThe color of Jesus is love. Let’s not get hung up on whether he was white, black or tan. He could not have been white, by the way. But let’s move on from that. Let’s focus on what he did and what he said and how we live by that. Not what color he was.

New York City is not a place where you will be immediately mugged and raped and killed as soon as you cross the border. You could be mugged or raped or killed here. Just as you could anywhere in the country. But you don’t have to be. Certainly all of that will not happen to you on your first day here. I, for instance, have been here for a year and four months and have experienced none of the above.

That’s certainly not what I believed growing up in the South. It was somehow communicated to me as a child that I needed to fear New York City. It was a dangerous place full of bad people who wanted to hurt me and my family. Living in Salisbury, North Carolina, that’s what I thought. New York City was a more dangerous place when I was a child. So were a lot of big cities whose violent crime rates have fallen over the years. I just had to get over the perception that it was a brutal urban jungle with cutthroat pirates for citizens. It’s not like that at all.

Every heartwarming tale you read on the internet is not true. One tale that seemed to satisfy some inner demons was shared recently on my Facebook page. A 93-year-old woman had been a victim of the Knockout Game, beaten a by a young thug and his cronies. She retrieved a Dirty Harry style cannon of a gun from her purse and blew his brains out. No charges filed. It sounded too neat and tidy and Instant Karma to me, so I researched it and discovered it was a hoax.

Another weird tale of a passenger on an airplane who was trying to get home for Thanksgiving with a woman who was being impossible also turned out to be fabricated. As the flow of information has increased, the speed of fact checking has not kept up. An old reporter’s adage says that you should believe nothing without three reliable sources. If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

I had to come to grips with my own fantastical preconceptions yesterday as I walked around the Bronx all day. It wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I thought it was like the Earth after Armageddon. People living in abject poverty and crime running rampant. It’s very true that some people do live in in abject poverty in the Bronx. It’s historically the poorest borough. But it isn’t as if every citizen there is on the verge of starvation.

The Bronx is actually pretty and spacious in parts. The sidewalks are wide. Tall buildings don’t crowd you in every direction the way they do in Manhattan. The Bronx Zoo is immense and lovely. The above ground subway is fun to ride, not just because you get a view of the graffiti along the route. You can get a good signal on your cell phone because you’re not in a tunnel as you always are in Manhattan.

The graffiti artists are daring and bold and relentless in the Bronx. They hit the rooftops of buildings and the concrete all along the subway tracks. I imagine them standing there urgently in the middle of the night painting their message to the world on subway tracks between trains.

I spent the day bowling, playing pool and walking all around The Bronx with a blind man. That was amazing enough by itself. But the bowling alley was a special warm and cozy neighborhood spot that I’d visit again any time. And people were gentle and caring in response to my friend. I survived my day in The Bronx with no wounds and lots of warm memories.

In summary, the color of Jesus is love, believe nothing too-good-to-be-true on the Internet and the Bronx is beautiful. Don’t believe the hype.

Limits of Perception