Traveling home is never fun. Besides being a long journey back, the truth is, I hate to leave. There’s never enough time. I want to spend more time getting to know the kids and working with the staff. Maybe that’s not only because the kids are so great, but because in the village every day contains a clear success. It’s awesome watching it happen. It’s moving and emotional and validating. As hard as everyone works, the rewards are huge. I watch as lives change in front of my eyes, and I suppose I’m addicted to that success. Next time, I’m staying longer.
The end of this trip was quite heavy. Our visiting group went to a church which is a memorial site. During the genocide, people were lured to churches as places of safely, and then systematically exterminated. The churches have been preserved so the genocide and the people will not be forgotten. The clothing of the dead is draped on the pews. Bones and skulls are preserved. Coffins line catacomb-like rooms. I had been before, and it was still hard to take. But it seems like the right thing to do to pay my respects each time, somewhere, just like in Israel. Forgetting is not an option.
We then went to the genocide memorial in Kigali. I have been many times. I took that time to reflect on the week, and the past year. Sitting in the sun, in such a spiritual place, I was overcome with emotion. I’m not sure if it was just the events from the past week, or the immense pressure I feel to succeed every day (felt even more intensely in Rwanda) but I kind of lost it. A healing cry, filled with sadness for all that has been lost, especially Anne. I wanted to leave my tears in Israel, but I don’t think I did. Not sure I ever will leave the void of her loss behind me. But maybe that’s a good thing. I never cared about being a success before- it was always private and personal so it didn’t matter, only I was the judge. But this… Is different. There is no other option but success. I am thankful daily for the staff and kids who make it look easy. It’s not. But successful it is.
In the evening we went to family time. Every house has family time several times a week to discuss issues and concerns, successes. It’s a time for reflection and connection for the kids and their brothers or sisters. I went to the Steve Jobs house, a group of senior 6 boys who have grown very close, and who all seem to be completely exceptional. Blaise, our Stand Up singer, Joel, our entrepreneur winner, Bonfils our debate champ and dynamic village time speaker, to name a few. We talked and asked and answered questions. We asked them what had the most impact on them at the village. We got a mix of answers, but many of them said their family, their brothers and sisters. Always nods of agreement. So-and really, I thought this out as clearly as I could while they were speaking- when they were finished I told them that there is a word in Yiddish which means “family” or the family you choose. Mishpuchah. And they are my Mishpuchah and they are each others. I told them this is a real thing, after all, Jews have a word for it. And while I’m amused at the idea that I have introduced Yiddish to these guys, I realize that as poorly versed in Judaism as I am, I have delivered some kind of Jewish message or connection each time I’m with the kids. And it is intentional. For Anne. This connection was so important to her. I may not be the best Jewish scholar but I’ll continue to try my best. Points of connection to the Jewish world for these kids is critical for making friends and creating understanding between cultures. I wish I could spend more time here teaching those things. Maybe next year I’ll teach the the word, schlep?
Monday I met with our wonderful fellows, who have been in the village for 3 weeks and are already a critical part of village life. They are “cousins” for each house of new kids, and it is a hard transition time. But they are a fantastic group, and seem to have embraced their roles as leaders and family. I also had the opportunity to meet with JC. JC has become one of the most dynamic leaders in his role as director. He has become the face of the village. The kids adore him, and he has created a hard working and fun loving team in his staff. I could not ask for a more thoughtful and caring partner to more forward on this journey. He is a wonderful “papa” for this village. Everything, everyone, is in place. And as it should be.
Now, being home, I realize how much of my heart and soul is in that village. Not a day goes by that I do not think of them all, worry, and try to make things better. I have a lot of money to raise, a lot of time to commit. And, thankfully, a lot of love to give. You get what you give. I am lucky. I got Mishpuchah in Rwanda.