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December 2, 2004
How like a sea they are, how like a river, the throng of people coming through the Seventh Avenue turnstiles and heading for work. Purposeful strides, crisp clothes, good neckties, with their briefcases and folded newspapers. You can tell something of who they are by which paper they're reading: a certain uniform goes with the Wall Street Journal -- hemlines at mid-knee, hardly any piercings and no baggy cargo pants among its readers as they head downtown, or to their new offices scattered, since the bombing of the World Trade Center, at various spots around midtown.

The financial folk read the Times, too, but it spreads a wider net than the Journal: thin, pale people who haven't heard about this season's emphasis on soft pastels and would dress all in black even if they had, blue-jeaned Columbia students, white-haired professor types, older men and women whose destination on the train is not as immediately apparent as those of the students or the Journal readers.

But the yeoman's work of subway riding is still done by the readers of the Daily News or the New York Post. "Ultimate Hero" said the Post yesterday, featuring the news that the first New York City firefighter has died in the line of duty in Iraq. There's a picture of him helping raise the flag at the Trade Center site three years ago. And I think it was Lacey Peterson's brokenhearted mother yesterday on the front page of the News; "Divorce Was Always an Option," she screams at the impassive man who killed her daughter. Ah, me.

Quiet Chinese riders peruse the news in their language, their heads nodding up and down slowly as they read. Korean riders heads move side to side. Some Indian riders read newspapers in their lovely frilly script -- others Indian riders just read the Times. Fewer people are reading Spanish papers than one might think, although there are many Latinos on the train -- but it is morning, and many of them have one or two children to attend to, on their way to school.

Walking, riding, reading, chatting, sleeping: how lovely they all are! How complete and absorbing each of their stories, and how deep each of their longings. This must be what God sees when he looks at us. Some surely know of their beauty, of the depth of God's love for them. And some do not know, have yet to find out. There are those who will never know, not until they leave this world. And then they will see themselves, finally, as they have always been seen by their loving God. Come, Lord Jesus.
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