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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Spirit in the city: New York

Amy C. Elliott hears a subway drummer

Photo by Amy C. ElliottThe Times Square subway station isn’t the safest, cleanest or friendliest place in the city, to say the least. But the Spirit, as an enforcer for humanization, is very present—you can hear it. Above the bustle of commuters and the rumble of passing trains, there is sometimes music. It’s a sound I unconsciously strain for every time I step out onto the platform.

I’ve always found subway musicians inspiring—long, still voices of creativity amid the rushing, anonymous crowd. There is something especially stirring about drummers, who set rush hour to a beat and bring the station alive with a literal pulse. I explained this assignment to one of them, and he nodded as if the subject matter was a perfect fit. Vincent spoke about trying, through his instrument, to express the universal rhythm that connects us all.

The Spirit is not only at hand in the music itself but also in the shared experience of hearing it. The strangers who stop to listen and appreciate are united, for a few minutes at least, as a like-minded audience. That human connection, however modest, is regenerative and to experience it in a place that can be so inherently alienating is profound.


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