Friday, July 17, 2009

Matot – Ma’sei 2009 - Travels

I was on the road so much the past few weeks that I even found myself enjoying the hour long NPR documentary about Willie Nelson, he of “On The Road Again” fame (despite my personal and intense dislike of both kinds of music – Country and Western). I could list my journey like a trip-tik from AAA:

And then I went from Indian Ridge, Marietta to Grovehurst, Marietta;
And from Marietta to Chattanooga; and I rested in Chattanooga for one hour;
And from Chattanooga to Nashville;
And from Nashville I travelled to Louisville, and it rained strongly;
And from Louisville to Indianapolis;
And from Indianapolis to the Skyway, which was slow;
And from the Skyway I traveled to Highland Park, where I rested one night;

And from Highland Park I traveled to Lakeview, Chicago and purchased a home there;
And from Lakeview I traveled to Conover, the home of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, and I was in Conover for six days; and on the day after the Sabbath…

I returned to Lakeview and met Rebecca and Amalya, and we met the movers and unpacked;

And then it was Shabbat and we rested…

If the above sounds both familiar and a bit thin on details, it is because it is very similar to the opening verses of the second of our two parshiot this week: Matot and Ma’sei, which are also long on place names and short on details as to what occurred in those places. The details are so limited that when mentioning the Sinai Desert, there is not even a mention of Mt. Sinai let alone the retelling or even noting of God’s revelation to B’nai Yisrael at Mt. Sinai. The filling in of the details is often left to the midrash.

If I stopped at the list I made above, you might have thought that nothing of interest happened on my drive. You would not have known that it rained for three solid hours between Nashville and Louisville so hard that you could not see more than ten feet in front of you; or that I stopped in Chattanooga to see my sister, Vicki, my brother-in-law, Jason, or my very cute nephew, Jordan; nor would you have known that it took me 17 hours to get from Marietta to Highland Park, Il instead of the 11 hours Mapquest told me it would take.

Often, I find that it is that which appears to be most mundane along these trips that turns out to be the most powerful and the most moving. It can be a sunset over the highway, or heron gliding past your car to land on a roadside lake. Or it can be a chance encounter with a person. I had many such encounters during the past month but want to share only one with you this Shabbat.

I went to the Amanut Building – the Arts Building – at Ramah in Wisconsin to see what was going on there. It was a beautiful day and from the porch that connects the art building to the woodshop, you could see the gorgeous lake, the island seemingly a finger’s length away. A young woman was teaching campers how to make their own tote bags, to personalize them, and to use them to tell a story. I was intrigued. After the activity ended, I asked Yali about her project. She showed me her portfolio and there was a photo of a Kate Spade Bag, black with embossed paisleys and other shapes. I asked Yali about the bag. What followed was far beyond my imagination.

Yali is young, energetic, vibrant, and so happy. Her smile is infectious and people tell me that you will never see Yali look any differently. The art staff and the aidah staff cherish her equally. The campers who work with Yali clearly love her. She is, I am told, a person with an exceptional work ethic and an incredible heart. And you would never know it but Yali is also a cancer survivor. She is 18 now and about to start college, an achievement that many take for granted, but my guess is that Yali never doubted that she would reach.

While Yali was fighting her battle with cancer, she had the opportunity to have a wish fulfilled through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. She wanted to design a bag with Kate Spade, and she did it! She wanted 50% of the purchase price of each bag, costing $325, to go to the Foundation, which it did. Yali explained the meaning of the various symbols on the bag and it was clear that this was an exceptional young artist with a brilliantly creative mind who saw that she was given a gift and wanted to make the world a better place. Details about the bag were presented on the Kate Spade Website:

"Yali’s “Carry On” purse and design make the statement that cancer survivors “carry on” courageously and elegantly with life in the face of their medical baggage. The design details illustrate Yali’s salute to cancer survivors. She chose to have the interior of the bag replicate a bandana, which many cancer patients use to disguise their hair loss during chemotherapy. The bag was, without a doubt, created with hope, strength and joy."

The Yali Carry On Kate Spade Bag is sold out, the last few of them being given to charity to raise funds for their work via auction events. But wait, that’s not all! Yali has now created a second Yali Carry On TM. It costs $25 and all of the proceeds go to the department of Family Services at Children’s Memorial Hospital. According to Yali, the design of this beach tote is:

“Creative… and … functional, but has deeper meaning as well. As Yali states “The brilliant colors represent the vibrancy of life; the bird symbolizes the freedom and beauty of expression. The wings of the bird, created by hand prints, remind us of our unique abilities to overcome challenges.”

If you are interested in purchasing a bag, please let me know and I will be in touch with Yali to find out how you can acquire one.

Yali may be 18 years old chronologicall y but her wisdom, courage and Simhat Hayyim, joy and appreciation of life, are far beyond her years and should be an inspiration to us all. She is the emobidment of the principle taught by Rebbe Nahman of Breslov, “It is a great mitzvah to be joyous all the time!” And she is a true Mitzvah Hero, to use a term I learned from my teacher, Danny Seigel.

To learn more about Yali’s story, follow this link:

“And from Lakeview I traveled to Conover, the home of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, and I was in Conover for six days;”

And in Conover, I met Yali and once again a seemingly ordinary encounter turned out to be extraordinary.

Who are the extraordinary people you met this week? Think about that around your Shabbat table.

Shabbat Shalom

No comments: