From The Director’s Desk – September 2018
I was walking around the neighborhood with my family this past Sunday when I happened upon a bake sale. As bake sales go, this one was legit. At least four families, a dozen baked goods, and two varieties of drink (one warm, one cold – it was rainy that day). Prices varied – cookies were 50 cents, three for $1.25. All good. They were on the steps of one of the condo buildings in town. Behind them, their parents were inside the building, watching dutifully, but also keeping their distance. Little did I know when we walked up that this small group of children would be the perfect way for me to prepare for Rosh Hashanah.
I’m a foodie, and of course, my questions started about the food (don’t judge). I wanted to know if the cookies were soft or hard, brownies cake-y or fudgy – you know, normal questions for an adult. Once we made our way through each baked item – the children were patient and thorough in their explanations (as thorough as I was with my inquiries), I asked the children if there was a purpose for the bake sale. Were they doing it for fun or was there a cause for which they were raising money? They told me that they were raising money for Joseph’s House—a small organization, not far from where we stood, that provides end-of-life care for homeless men and women in DC with HIV and cancer.
It turns out that this home is on my way to/from the metro, which I use to get to work each day. I was astounded. How could I have missed such an important cause so regularly in my travels? I started to wonder, what other powerful organizations and actions were taking place behind the non-descript windows on my daily commute? Probing further, the children knew a great deal about the organization, and I was impressed with their depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the cause.
Fast forward to Tuesday during Rosh Hashanah services. The person delivering the D’var Torah spoke about an important word in our Torah reading, “Hineini.” In Hebrew School, we learned to say, “Ani Po – I am here.” But when Abraham answers God’s call, he uses this one word phrase, “Hineini.” It is packed with a certain reverence: “I am here physically, mentally, and spiritually.” Whereas “Ani Po” is casual, “Hineini” conveys depth and reflection.
Since our bake sale encounter and the Hineini sermon a few days later, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be present, not just physically. When I am at the dinner table, does my family have my attention? When I am in a meeting, are my thoughts wandering or are they focused on the topic? When I am in a beautiful space in the Catoctin Mountains, do I appreciate the beauty and significance of nature and community around me?
It’s crazy to believe that it has already been a month since our last campers departed from camp. It came and went in a flash, as I’m sure your campers have shared. As I look toward the year ahead, as we plan for another amazing summer, I am really excited about all the potential a new summer brings. Perhaps while we set out to find new fun, adventure, and exciting new memories, we’ll also take a pause, so that when the campers step off the bus, they can take a deep sigh in, appreciate their surroundings, and say to themselves, “Hineini.”