Viewpoint #3 -- From another era
A bridge loomed ahead, spanning one stretch of cemented landscape to another. I opened my weary eyes as we crossed the Verrazano Bridge. I had not traveled this way many times and a view that was unfamiliar to me called for my attention.
"Over to the right is the New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean is to the left," offered my husband, aware that I don't always have my bearings.
Immediately my mind took this in. These Verrazano Narrows were the gate -- these very narrows. How many ships filled with homeless families, countless young men and women pursuing a dream, and broken people hoping for a new life had sailed through this very passageway? Who can imagine? I did.
The ship deck was crowded now and had been for a while as everyone had rushed up, seeking a glimpse of the long awaited New York Harbor. This was all they had talked about for weeks now, even months, maybe even years: New York, the gateway to America! A cacophony of varying exclamations representing a multitude of cultures and peoples echoed up and down the crowded mass. The sanguine calls to a loved one to look and see, the cries of joy or painful longing, the whimpers of fear - it all could be heard at once. Many, though, stood in silent awe, frightened at the prospect, overcome with immense hope and gratitude for all they anticipated, trying to comprehend the moment, aware somehow that it required and deserved solemnity. As differing languages surrounded these silent ones with articulations of anticipation, fear, and hope, they themselves held back expression, not knowing words that could voice such depths of emotion, not wanting to try.
My eye scanned the breadth of the harbor lying before me. "Where is she?" I knew that every eye on that deck would have searched for the same figure. In no time, I saw her, her green verdigris gleaming brightly in the midst of the gray all around her, illuminating the distant figure. It was as though a column of sun rested upon her just for me -- just for us. She was beautiful. She took my breath away.
Another wave of expression, more hushed than before, moved across the crowded mass as they pressed in for a better view. This brave, wondrous, beautiful lady was somehow mystical, commanding a depth of awe from everyone.
As I gazed and imagined, my heart filled, enlarging within me, pounding and confined only by this physical body holding it captive. Surely it would have otherwise burst asunder with such voluminous emotion. There she was, the herald of freedom, messenger of hope, harbinger of all they had dreamed and imagined that this great new beginning would hold.
Today she stands before the towering skyline of modern Manhattan, comparatively unimpressive in stature . But to them, she stood tall above the whole world, illuminating the entire harbor with great hope and welcome, lending light afresh to dreams, both spoken and unspoken. Their eyes were riveted, her beauty capturing them entirely. You see, she meant something to them that is not fully comprehended by those of us who have not yearned for such freedom, such hope. She encompassed all of that and more. She was the promise of a new home, a successful life, new opportunity. She spoke to them of peace and deep happiness.
I understood in greater measure the beauty of Lady Liberty. I caught a glimpse of who she was to these huddled masses. I felt the agony of hope, the desperation of broken people searching for a new beginning, the youthful exhilaration of those seeking adventure, those who still dared to dream big dreams. It was all there.
Today I realize that many of them were looking to her and to the nation of promise that she represented for fulfillment. They looked to a good and wonderful Lady and to a truly promising nation, I have no doubt. I am aware that this America and this Statue of Liberty represented many wonderful things, and provided many wonderful things.
But in the end, the look was too low, the gaze misplaced. For some, the dreams were fulfilled, the expectations met. But many were disappointed, finding discrimination and hardship. This land was not perfect.
God alone can meet these deep needs. He alone can fulfill such desires for all generations. Lady Liberty met the masses, hungry and tired, during a limited period of time. Great was her fame and moving was the hope she engendered. But God alone provides hope to all people, at all times, in all places.
As I reflect on Her beauty and the promise to the masses who flock to America's shore, I look to the Cross. Once again my heart swells with gratitude, with hope, and with prayer for the broken people of this day, the youth looking for a future, the fearful who need to start anew. At the Cross can be found Liberty for all. Always.