Archived Story

New York minute changes viewpoint

Published 12:10pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mark Twain once said, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness … Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I agree.

I have lived a fairly sheltered life, and while I do not consider myself to be guilty of prejudice or bigotry, I am sometimes guilty of narrow-mindedness.

I grew up in a middle class suburb in Birmingham, and upon graduating I immediately moved two hours down U.S. Highway 280 to Auburn.

I’m a third-generation alumnus so Auburn University was not exactly out of my comfort zone. Moving to Auburn felt like going to my second home, rather than moving to an entirely new world.

But shortly upon moving to Auburn, I joined a sorority. I met girls who weren’t from Birmingham, didn’t all vote republican and didn’t make sweet tea.

Some of my pledge sisters, who four years later became my bridesmaids, hailed from places like Qatar (a neighbor of Saudi Arabia – that I didn’t know existed until I met Catie Duncan), Tampa, Washington D.C. and St. Louis.

These girls became my best friends and opened my eyes in a variety of ways.

Last week I had similar experience as I visited New York City for the first time.

Visiting New York is something I’ve always wanted to do, so when my husband gave me a girls’ trip to the Big Apple as a Christmas present, I was absolutely thrilled.

We went shopping on Madison Avenue, fed ducks in Central Park, ate authentic New York style cheesecake and tried to navigate the subway – which was extremely challenging with nine girls.

I saw a Broadway play, dined at communal table in a tapas style restaurant and visited my friend’s less than 800-square-foot apartment in Midtown, which costs more per month than the mortgage on my 2000-plus-square-foot house.

I did see rats the size of kittens on subway tracks, I felt claustrophobic in trains packed to the brim during rush hour and by the end of the trip I really, really missed free refills on Diet Coke. New York was definitely different than anything I’ve ever experienced, but it was also wonderful.

The New Yorkers we met didn’t match my preconceived stereotypes of rude busy people, and the city that never sleeps wasn’t the vast concrete pad I imagined.

Perfect strangers told us which train to take, people held doors open for us as we struggled with packages and the buildings had amazing historic architecture.

The trip was one of my favorite memories to date and definitely served to broaden my horizons.

Monday morning, I traveled just a few miles from the TPI office on Cherokee Road to Stephens Elementary, but I had my horizons broadened again. As I covered my first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade, I was pleasantly surprised.

The community turnout was incredible, and the spirit of togetherness was overwhelming. It was an inspiring tribute to a man who so admirably fought against prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

I encourage everyone in our community to have a broader, more wholesome and charitable view of man and things. Don’t vegetate in one little corner.

Travel as far and as often as you can, but also open your mind and heart to new people and things in our area – what you discover might surprise you.

Pemberton is a staff writer for The Outlook.