My first time in New York City was during the Spring Break of 2009, when I went on a mission trip to the Bronx with some fellow Franciscan University of Steubenville students.
A lot of Franciscan students went on mission trips during Spring Break.
You know, combing the Western Hemisphere spreading the love of God, and making sure to get the obligatory picture with an underprivileged, non-American child to show how much they cared about underprivileged, non-American children.
Not me, though. I was going on a stateside mission.
I chose to go on the Bronx mission trip because I figured if I was going to do good deeds, then it would make sense to do them in my own country.
Plus, it was a good excuse to finally visit New York City. 🍎
It was a wonderful experience. Riding the subway, shooting the breeze with random folks, it was very enlightening for me.
I mean sure, the actual mission work was nice, too. Cleaning toilets with the Missionaries of Charity and hanging out with octogenarians in nursing homes wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was (dare I say it) fulfilling.
But the real cherry on top was playing basketball with a bunch of kids in the Bronx.
Our group was staying with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (gray robes, long beards, so certainly not mere Padawans), and they had a basketball court on the ground floor.
So one night, when kids were down there running pick-up games, I trudged down there in my new Knicks jersey (Nate Robinson, #4. It was 2009, after all).
Tourist Level: 9000.
I had a blast playing with those guys, though. I would make a basket and they would start whooping and hollering, saying “Yo, it’s David Lee! 20 and 10 a night!”
At first I was confused. I wasn’t wearing David Lee’s jersey. I was wearing Nate Robinson’s #4. 🤷♂️
Then it hit me: they were calling me David Lee because I’m white.
If New York City wasn’t so damn expensive, and crowded, and loud, and expensive, and crowded, I would have seriously considered moving there.
So basically, if New York City wasn’t New York City.
But it was worth the experience 😊