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A little piece of quiet
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Did you know that New York’s most famous island bears a remarkable resemblance to Mercer Island? That’s right. Manhattan is about the same width as our Island and roughly twice as long. In terms of housing, those who rent and buy tend to pay top dollar. An appreciation for the arts is noteworthy on both islands. But there are some distinct differences, too. While there are only five Starbucks in our community (compared with 171 in Manhattan), we edge out the big island on a per capita basis. Mercer Island has one Starbucks outlet for every 4,400 people, while Manhattan has one for every 8,700.
Two years ago, when my wife and I flew back to New York to watch our daughter perform in Carnegie Hall, we came under the enchantment of the city that never sleeps. Our bite out of the Big Apple only whetted our appetite. We could have munched all night and still have begged for more.
While Wendy and I loved walking the streets of Times Square, our daughter, Lauren, fell in love with a small section of Central Park known as Sheep Meadow. This 15-acre square of lawn was used as grazing land for livestock (especially sheep) until 1934. It is located adjacent to the famed Tavern on the Green.
Except in the cold of winter, Sheep Meadow is an ideal place for tourists and workers to enjoy a picnic lunch, a mid-afternoon nap, meditate in solitude or just catch some rays. Signs that surround this section of the park prohibit any kind of music. It is an outdoor sanctuary where silence provides the call to worship ... or study ... or sleep ... or tan.
Mercerdale Park, in the heart of our town, is about the same size as Sheep Meadow. Both our “meadow” and the more famous one provide a grassy island of refreshment in the midst of an expanding concrete aviary where multi-colored cranes have become almost as common as crows and robins. But our postage-stamp parcel of paradise (across from the post office) is more accessible.
Mercerdale Park is a little piece of quiet in our bustling community where office workers, shoppers and shopkeepers can take five on a bench or do 10 laps on a lunch break. It’s a calm and comforting place where grandma can walk her dog while a young dad wrestles with his preschoolers on the lawn. I often will walk to Mercerdale Park to enjoy the visual respite, sip a cup of coffee and write some poetry before engaging a couple in pre-marital conversations in my office.
I have become convinced that every one of us needs a “Sheep Meadow” in our lives. It might very well be Mercerdale Park. Maybe it’s Luther Burbank Park or Groveland Beach. It may be a hammock in your backyard. It could be a bench overlooking the lake at one of our many street ends. Perhaps it’s a lanai at a high-rise apartment overlooking downtown Mercer Island.
But your “Sheep Meadow” doesn’t have to be an outside setting at all. It might be a closed office during lunch, when you can sit back in a chair behind your desk with your fingers interlocked behind your head while listening to the sounds of silence.
It was God who invited us to be still and quiet in His presence. He is the one whom King David called the divine shepherd. The timeless words of the twenty-third Psalm suggest that all of us are sheep in need of a calm and quiet meadow where we can be regularly reminded of our Creator’s constant care. A place where we can lie down in green pastures or be led by still waters in an attempt to have our souls restored.
Yes, we all need a little piece of quiet.
Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.