I stood at the base of the Rockefeller Center building and looked up the 67 floors to the top. This tower is a prominent feature of the New York City skyline. It was hard to really understand how massive and complex this building was.
My son, Dawson, and I walked through the revolving glass doors and made our way to the ticket counter. In celebration of Dawson’s 10th birthday, I let him choose a destination to visit for a few days, just the two of us. I had read something years earlier about taking your child away for some one-on-one time outside of normal responsibilities and life demands. The adventure provides time to really understand each other as people, not just parent and child.
Without hesitation Dawson picked New York City and it’s easy to understand why. You can feel the energy of the city. It’s creative. It’s eclectic. It’s constantly in motion. There is always something to do, people to watch and views to take in. The city that never sleeps was a perfect match for my upbeat, high energy boy.
Our unplanned day had unfolded perfectly. Our stroll through Central Park led way to a game of checkers, the Central Park Zoo and the famous frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity. After a short Uber ride to rest our tired legs, we arrived at Rockefeller Center with time to spare to take in the views from the top at sunset. However, as we spoke with the attendant about purchasing tickets we learned our perfect plans were about to be thrown off course…or so we thought.
The first available ticket to the top wasn’t until 7:15pm and we would miss daylight and sunset all together. My heart sank. This was the one experience I was really looking forward to and I knew Dawson would love the panoramic view. I could picture his face as he looked in awe at the miles and miles of buildings and beautiful architecture. Upon seeing my dropped expression, the attendant shared that we could take a tour of Rockefeller, which included a 6:15pm elevator ride to the top, just in time for dusk.
“Yes, we’ll take it!” I practically leapt over the counter to hug the man. But I wasn’t excited to play tourist and walk around in a mob of people with headphones on. My overtired brain was uncertain if it could even process the tour guides insight but I knew the ending point would be worth it.
Our tour wandered around the blocks that surrounded Rockefeller Center as we learned about the 19 buildings covering 22 acres in the heart of New York City that made up the Rockefeller complex. We learned about John D. Rockefeller Jr. and how the land we were standing on was first leased to him for $3 million per year for 87 years starting in 1928. Rockefeller had plans to team up with the Metropolitan and build a new opera house. His ideas were massive as he partnered with the finest architects to craft a work of art. He formed a large committee to work on the project with him and surrounded himself with people who dreamt of the wonderful things to come. It was a big project but he believed big right along side it.
I wonder if Rockefeller’s excitement kept him up at night? Did he picture people dressed in suits and ballgowns making memories as they took in the opera? Could he hear the laughter and gasps as the audience engaged with the actors and their performances? When Rockefeller closed his eyes could he see the finished product and all its beauty?
Unfortunately none of those dreams were realized. Before the project could ever break ground, the stock market crashed in 1929. Rockefeller was devastated I bet. Can you imagine how overwhelmed and discouraged he must have felt? I can feel the pit in my stomach of empathy for him as he met rock bottom. All of his plans, hopes and dreams for what was to come vanished with no money to fund this project. Everything he saw in his mind’s eye, gone. His vision of his future was now vacant.
With his money on the line, Rockefeller had to overcome his broken dream and scramble quickly. He partnered with one of the very few profitable companies during a desperate time in American history, Radio Corporation of America (RCA). RCA was a parent company to NBC, and together they would go on to build a massive entertainment complex, which would include Radio City Music Hall and 30 Rock, home to NBC Studios today among many others.
Out of actual rubble and grief, hope was born. The construction on this massive 22-acre plot would employee 40,000 to 60,000 people during the great depression. In a time where people were hurting and didn’t know how to provide for their families, Rockefeller’s broken dreams birthed new possibilities for once hopeless families. It took the leveling of ‘what could have been’ to make room for ‘what would be’, a historic moment that is still relevant today.
In hindsight, I’m willing to bet Rockefeller was thankful for his forced shifting of plans, but in the moment I’m sure he was shaken, confused, frustrated and even asked ‘why me’? His perspective was limited. He couldn’t have seen that there was so much more in store for him and the generations his transformed plans would impact. The only way for the larger story to play out was for Rockefeller’s plans to crumble.
After our tour was over, Dawson and I traveled up the 67 floors and headed out to the observation deck. The view was breathtaking. A 360 degree scene of the city that never sleeps. The glowing orange sun sunk and briefly peered from the clouds before it fell behind the skyline.
As I looked out over New York City, I couldn’t help but think of my rock bottom moment. I had big plans and dreams for a life ahead of me that dissolved before my eyes as I became a widow far younger than I ever imagined. In fact we often joked that Daryn would live to 114 and I would pass 15 years earlier because I couldn’t imagine a life without him. Like Rockefeller, my entire world shifted as my dreams bottomed out.
Two and a half years earlier, I stood in this exact spot, on ‘Top of the Rock’ with Daryn. He was giddy as we took in the view. He loved big cities and the energy it brought. I’m certain that trip Daryn and I took, which ended up being our last trip together, is what planted the idea of NYC in Dawson’s mind so prominently.
I could have never imagined the ‘stock market crash’ that was soon to follow and the unraveling that would take place. But John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s story gave me hope that this was just the beginning of my story. The foundation had been laid for plans I could have never grasped. That what lies ahead of me could be a building block for future generations. My story that’s to be written could be an agent of change and hope for others in a time they need it most.
We all have encountered hurt and tender places on our journeys; where things didn’t go as we planned or hoped for. This side of heaven, I will never be able to understand or make sense of why God changed my dreams. I don’t know what plans you’ve had leveled or what dreams have crashed down in your world, but I would challenge you to shift your perspective. Is it possible that God, the Ultimate Architect, has drawn blueprints for your story that far exceed anything you could ever hope for or dream of? Is what’s coming better than what has gone? I choose to believe that. We have to build on that hope and hold tight to joy. We have to wait in anticipation and confidence that God, the Architect knows our best.
I don’t know what kind of skyscraper God is constructing in my life, but I know that I can trust the Architect and His ability to see our past, present and future all at the same time. I can not wait to see the view from the top one day.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”.
…and towers tall too, perhaps.