Reaching People in the Skyscrapers of New York
IT WAS a cold February morning in New York city. People were making their way in and out of stores amid towering skyscrapers, the tallest of them being the 110-story World Trade Center. Just a few blocks away from those mammoth structures is an insurance building that I was about to enter.
Getting off the elevator on the thirty-seventh floor, I looked down the long corridor with entrances leading to various offices. It was my prayer that people working in large office buildings here in New York city would be reached with the important message that we had for them.
Earlier that morning, as we prepared to set out on our mission, a group of us wondered: ‘How would people in this business and financial center react to the good news of a coming world change by means of God’s kingdom?’ This question now flashed through my mind as I approached one end of the corridor leading to an office of a research corporation.
The friendly executive who greeted me had just been served a cup of coffee. My opening remark tied in with the morning break, after which I introduced myself as a representative of the Watch Tower Society whose world headquarters are located just across the East River from lower Manhattan. Inviting me into an adjoining office, he motioned to a chair near his desk and kindly suggested that I make myself comfortable.
In explaining the purpose of my call, I raised a question about the quality of life and what could be done to upgrade it. His interest seemed to be aroused. He gave the question some serious thought before responding. Within minutes it was apparent that this man was concerned about the general deterioration within human society and specifically what was happening in the city. However, he was not sure what could be done to improve the situation, unless, he said, “the answer lies in religion.” That comment indicated something about his inclinations.
What he said was used to emphasize the purpose of my visit and the work that Jehovah’s witnesses are doing. He was referred to the Bible and to what it says about these critical times and the basis for a welcome change. For detailed answers to questions and the hope for a better way of life for all mankind, he was offered a Bible study aid entitled “The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.” Readily accepting the publication, he insisted that I take an extra contribution, for which he was left additional pocket-size books. We had spent about twenty minutes discussing some pressing questions and spiritual matters. On leaving, he thanked me for the call.
That visit gave me added courage. It made me more aware of the fact that no matter what the occupation or business, there are people who feel the need to take a few minutes in their busy day to consider vital issues that affect them personally. Before the morning was over, that realization was heightened by experiences that my co-workers and I had in reaching people in offices high above the street level.
With some exceptions, we found business people quite courteous, civil and friendly in dealing with visitors like us. Putting ourselves in their position made us appreciate things that they must put up with. Like most other people, they feel the pressures of everyday life and are beset with anxieties. They wonder what the future holds, and, consequently, are in need of the Bible’s comforting message.
OUR VARIED EXPERIENCES
Just how does one go about determining whom to see and how to reach them? The names of individuals or firms were usually listed on the directory located in the lobby area as well as on the various floors. But in many cases it was not possible to reach directly the person whose name was given. Where a receptionist or secretary was on the job, I would ask for a particular individual or head of the firm after identifying myself and the organization I represented. If there was some hesitation, I assured them that my call would be brief.
Most receptionists were usually quite friendly and helpful. On other occasions, it was evident that they were instructed to screen out everyone except those who had appointments, in which case I found it practical to request an appointment.
In keeping such an appointment with the head of a personnel agency, I directed his attention to an article in The Watchtower dealing with the bad effects of drug abuse and what can be done to safeguard youths from getting hooked. Having teenage children, he immediately expressed concern over the drug problem. As a parent he wanted to protect his children from this danger, so he became fully absorbed in the discussion. One could keenly sense that this man was disturbed over what was happening to young people; he was concerned about his own family.
Despite several interruptions by phone calls and inquiries from his secretary, at no time was he inclined to curtail our conversation. The points referred to in the article were used to encourage him to receive regularly the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Without hesitation he agreed to have both magazines sent to his home. As he gave me his card, extending an invitation to visit him again, it was apparent that our thirty-minute discussion had accomplished much good.
On several occasions it was receptionists or secretaries who took a special interest in what we had to say from the Bible.
One of us called on a doctor who lived in an apartment that was not readily accessible to outsiders. So he had little occasion to get acquainted with the work of Jehovah’s witnesses. However, when the Witness called at his office, he took advantage of the opportunity to listen carefully. Even though the phone rang several times, he did not answer. “They will call back,” he said, encouraging the Witness to continue the discussion. The doctor accepted four Bible study aids and wanted to examine them thoroughly.
An unexpected reception greeted two Witnesses who called on a businessman in his office. Before they even had time to introduce themselves, he inquired: “Jehovah’s witnesses? I have been looking for you!” It turned out that his sister in a southern state was deriving much benefit from a home Bible study conducted by one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, and she made known this fact to her brother. He readily took several Bible publications.
SECURITY MEASURES INCREASING
Trying to reach people in some office buildings was more difficult due to a variety of security measures now in effect, because of increasing crime. In some buildings security guards are on duty; identification cards or passes are needed to gain admittance beyond the lobby area. Sometimes we had to obtain permission in advance or we had to check with a personnel director, public relations officer or other such official.
In one building with security restrictions, I was directed to a brokerage executive who told me that something was happening to family life. “People are getting away from the Bible,” he observed. In the ensuing discussion it was evident that he had respect for God’s Word and advocated a closely knit family unit. For this he was commended. To emphasize how Jehovah’s witnesses aid people in this vital area, he was shown one of the Watch Tower publications with a chapter on “Building a Happy Family Life.” He was pleased to obtain a copy of the book.
What made this discussion so refreshing was his ready response and attentiveness, along with his gracious manner. It was most satisfying to have reached such a person with the good news.
While making visits a few blocks above Wall Street, I noted that a number of office doors were locked. Outside bells had to be used to gain admittance. Peepholes in solid metal doors were also in evidence. My conversation with one receptionist in this area about the causes of increased lawlessness was overheard by a lawyer in an inside office. He invited me into his office for further discussion. He had just returned from court, where a case involving some youths was being handled. He voiced his fears that discipline in the home was breaking down. A fine discussion ensued, and he accepted a hardbound volume explaining what the Bible has to say on these and other vital matters.
WHAT CONCERNED THEM
It is evident that people in the business and professional community are definitely concerned about national and international issues. Their comments indicate a general dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the world. Few spoke with any degree of confidence in human plans and efforts to lay a solid basis for improvement in the foreseeable future.
While this attitude was reflected in the face of growing troubles elsewhere, problems closer to home disturbed them even more. The energy crisis, rising inflation, increasing lawlessness, youth and drug problems, family breakdown and deterioration in the quality of life around them are what they see from day to day.
By responding to the Bible-based message brought to them by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, some individuals working in the skyscrapers of New York are being directed to the divine source of true peace and security.—Contributed.