The D.N.E. Approach: Have You Seen Anyone Lately?
I haven’t recognized any TV or movie actors on the street for a few months now. When I first moved here from Michigan, I saw people I recognized a couple of times per month. Last week I wondered if winter had just scared everyone inside, but that’s not it. The actor-per-capita ratio is not diminishing in Manhattan. The truth is, I’m just not seeing people anymore. After almost three years in the city, I have stopped looking at faces as I pass them. I don’t see people.
If you are an NYC-native, you might have always navigated your way down the street in anonymity, not recognizing or being recognized. This isn’t some kind of cold detachment; this is urban survival. “Do not engage” is rule number one in most scenarios, and the D.N.E. approach serves us well in the city. But everything is supposed to change on Sunday morning. We walk through the doors on 77th street, and our eyes meet the eyes of others for the first time all week. “Hello and welcome!”, we say to strangers and friends. We actually see the faces of those whom we would have dismissed on the sidewalk outside.
I may have rubbed shoulders with you silently on the subway, but I’ll speak to you now.
At least that’s the way it is supposed to be at church. But sometimes it’s hard to transition from commuting in the safety of anonymity and D.N.E. We may sit in the pew and gaze forward, just as if we were on a bench on the train. We may politely nod at others, but largely ignore the sea of people around us. We may grab our bite to eat at the Sunday luncheon and sit next to other people rather than with other people. That’s okay. West End is a refuge for all, and that includes people who would rather worship in anonymity. But maybe you find yourself having trouble transitioning from sidewalk to pew. If so, I encourage you to see people. Open your eyes, and recognize and be recognized. Let this community be a place where your soul comes through your eyes.