New York in December is an experience that wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Rockefeller Center. It was everything I expected it to be when I visited for the first time. I was wowed by the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the skating rink. I was dazzled by the holiday cheer, lights and window shopping. What I wasn’t expecting was the profound poverty around this world famous landmark. My joy was mixed with sadness as I walked past the homeless who slept on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, curled into fetal positions to protect themselves from the cold winter air. Suddenly, the full impact of the Christmas story was surrounding me.
Certainly, the New York tourist and local should make the holiday trek to Rockefeller Center. It ‘s a tradition to be repeated. For the faithful, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is as close to God as one will get. But as you step past the homeless who have no hope, and walk into the church, it’s impossible to not make the connection to the Christmas story. Mary and Joseph could find no room to rest, and the Christ child was born in a manger. In essence, his life started as a homeless child. Today, we ignore this level of destitution at all costs because it is so painful to see, but New York’s Rockefeller Center gives the visitor an opportunity profoundly experience the full meaning of the season.
Skate on the famous skating rink. Awe at the serenity of the Christmas Tree that sparkles so peacefully in all the hustle and bustle of New York. Window shop. The displays are magnificent. Watch the world literally passes along the street. After you experience the wealth of the Rock, make your way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Acknowledge the presence of poverty and homelessness. Take a moment to fully experience both sides of America. This way, you let the real meaning of the season engulf you.
As you enter the church, light a candle at the prayer alter, and try to ignore the excited tourists. Find a quiet pew and offer a prayer of thanks for your own good fortune, for the beauty and pride of New York and Rockefeller Center, but ask for peace and good fortune for those who are sleeping just feet away from you, in the cold night air. By this, you make your own Christmas story, and you bring significance to your trip to one of the most well known attractions in the world. Your trip to Rockefeller will be unforgettable.