Friday, August 2, 2013

Mr. Lanphier and Me

Culture & Society ---

--Accepting the Invitation--
I have passed Jeremiah Lanphier on Broadway on several occasions, and every time I have seen him he is sitting, bible in hand, in what seems to be his favorite spot - a bench in front of the American Bible Society building located between 61st and 62nd Streets. This one time, on a beautiful summer's Sunday, I decided to stop and to talk with him for a bit. He seemed somewhat sad, and when I inquired the reason, he said (shaking his head), "They just don't get it." Puzzled, I asked, "They just don't get what, Mr. Lanphier? And furthermore, who are 'they'?"  It turns out that the 'they' to whom Mr. Lanphier was referring were the passers-by who walk by him day after day. He said that most of those (particularly women - younger women) who stopped to visit with him wanted only to take pictures. They would put their arms around him, lean their heads against his, or even sit on his lap (sometimes suggestively). He told me that one woman who sat next to him with an arm around his neck laughingly asked him why he was touching her thigh. "Preposterous!", he thundered, as he shared this with me. Looking down at his hand as I sat next to him on the bench, I told him that I could see why the woman would think so.

Mr. Lanphier observed that throughout the years he has been sitting in that spot, not one individual had actually taken him up on his invitation. When I asked him what 'invitation' he was talking about, he looked at me and with exasperation said, "Unbelievable! Why! An invitation to pray, of course. I have been sitting here all these years inviting passers-by to sit with me to pray. Not one has taken me up on my invitation." So next time you are in New York City and you happen to pass by the American Bible Society building on Broadway, spend a brief moment with Mr. Lanphier. Accept his invitation to pray (or whatever method you use to connect with your Source).  The way things are going these days, we, our loved ones, our friends, our world, could certainly use it.

[Photographic Art by Angela Pereira]