People are always talking about how the morality is degrading, and the world is becoming barbaric. With stories of Uganda, North Korea and such countries, it’s not hard to believe. The news is littered with tales of gruesome murders, and hate crimes. Christian radio blasts on about how abortion and stem cell research is morally wrong, while Youtube.com is a host of thousands of home videos of people fighting. Perhaps the world isn’t as good as it was, maybe, maybe not. Who knows…? But I believe that there is hope. Last week I found evidence in a place where most people wouldn’t consider the “happiest place on earth”.
New York City is almost like another planet. Filled with insane drivers, polluted air, and cranky people, one wouldn’t think to would find compassion and love there. But in a little chapel I found hope.
With the plain brown façade and wrought iron fence, St. Paul’s Chapel isn’t much to look at. I thought of it like any other church. Although I hadn’t seen a lot of churches in New York, there didn’t seem to be anything special about this one. However, as the tour guide spoke to us about this “normal” church, I found out that it had a lot more waiting inside than I thought.
St. Paul’s Chapel is located a mere block away from the fallen World Trade Center. For eight grueling months, the chapel served as headquarters for the many volunteers that flocked to the ground zero. St. Paul’s aided volunteers by providing shelter, food, and clothing. Priests and other clergymen also provided counseling for those who were emotionally drained. Massage therapists and chiropractors offered their services for tired policemen and firefighters. Recovery workers slept on the pews of the church leaving the scuff marks for all to see.
As I first stepped into the chapel, I felt sad and mournful for those lost at 9-11. I was greeted a stand with pictures and letters to those dead. The pictures showed the men and women who had died. They were frozen in time, smiling and happy. Little handmade signs displayed the names of those lost. One particular sign that I noticed had MIA (Missing in Action) written under the name; the MIA had a big line through it, and next to the crossed-out word was “Found: Spring 02”. It was depressing, looking at the pictures and seeing all the grinning and cheerful men and women smiling back up at me. I was shocked that these happy faces were gone, wiped out from the world because of hate.
Next in the exhibit was a stand with all of the pictures and letters that had hung outside the fence of the church after 9-11. These tokens were sent in by everyone from all over the nation. They were cards of mourning and sadness. People offered their condolences, little children wrote letters to their lost mommies and daddies, and some people just sent in pictures that they had drawn.
After viewing a few of the letters, I moved on to the next station. There were the pictures of after 9-11; pictures of people serving food to the firefighters, of volunteers sleeping in the pews of the church, and of dirty workers coming in for shelter. This is where I found my evidence, in the faces of these people. In the eyes of the volunteers, of the firemen, of everyone, there was love and compassion. As I continued along in the exhibit, my mood shifted from gloom to a new hope. I inspected a chain of one thousand origami cranes from students from a university in Japan and looked at pictures hand-drawn by Italian elementary school children.
When I finally stepped out of that church, I realized something. Compassion isn’t dead. Morals aren’t declining. People aren’t slowly becoming evil. Love is still there somewhere. Perhaps it’s just under the layers of everything else. And now I can say that I not only believe in hope, but I have found it. I have seen it. I have felt it. And this word, this four-letter word that we call ‘hope’, well, in this, I believe.
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