We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
There is an idea that one can learn more from being within the proximity of one’s Rabbi and merely hanging around him moreso than the actually teachings that may emanate from his mouth. It is the notion that people’s actions speak louder than their words. We can often get deeper lessons from observing how people, who mean a lot to us, go through life and deal with situations and that this impacts us deeper than any words they may say. It is learning through osmosis versus a text book or intellectual thought.
And this applies to many people in our lives, not just Rabbis. As parents we know that our kids often learn more from how we behave versus what we say. “Do as I say and not as I do” is a recipe for disaster and hypocrisy that will challenge the respect a child will have for their parent.
And so while we ourselves may not live according to some greater good or high ideal, if someone around us does, it still has a meaningful impact and rubs off on us. I have been feeling this the past few days since Karen took her group of 20 women to India on their trip with Justifi- Adventure with Purpose. From afar, observing the pictures being posted on Facebook and that she has sent me, it appears to be an extraordinary experience.
But it is not in the pictures and posts that I am sensing the deep impact she and these women are having. It is in her words and in her emotional expression of them. While there are certainly fun times they are having over there, the overarching theme is that “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Yes they have visited the Taj Mahal, attended an Indian dance workshop and other fun activities. But what Karen keeps repeating is that India is not a first world nation and the many things we take for granted and consider the norm are not so over there. It ain’t America, Canada, the UK or even Israel, which has transformed itself into a first world nation in a mere 70 plus years.
They visited a café which is staffed by survivors of acid attacks – a serious problem in places like India and Pakistan and almost unheard of in our society. They attended a “Free School Under a Bridge” which is exactly what is sounds like. A school for impoverished kids where a few teachers run a school under a bridge of a metro line. They went into the depths of an Indian slum to see what real poverty looks like, a level of destitution that simply does not exist in Western nations. And on and on I am hearing of how totally different and unbelievable India is as compared to anything we are used to.
Are there really people starving still?
Look out beyond the walls of Babylon
How long will their needs go unfilled?
I want to say right now I’m going to be around
When the walls and towers are crumbling
And while I am not in India myself, but in the safe, comfortable and familiar confines of my home and Aish, I cannot help but feel the impact and ripple effect of what she is experiencing. It has somehow seeped into my life and I find myself less upset and aggravated at silly, petty inconveniences in light of the world she is presently occupying. Who cares that the line to get past the Oakridge guard gate is backed up and I have to wait 10 minutes extra to get home. First world problems, literally. Can one really complain about how dated the guest bathroom looks while others, half a world away, are literally defecating in the streets since many don’t even have a functioning toilet in their home?
It somewhat reminds me of growing up as a child of a Holocaust survivor. Living with one who survived death camps was an ever-present reality check. Me and my brothers never used expression like, “Traffic was a nightmare” around my father. “Nightmare? Let me tell you what a nightmare is really like.” There was a constant awareness that whatever hardship or difficulty you might be experiencing paled in comparison to what real difficulties and hardships were.
And so even though I am thousands of miles away, ten and half hours behind Karen’s time zone and not personally seeing what she is seeing, I cannot help but feel the waves of those self-same experiences. I keep thinking that it is hard for me to believe that she will come back the same person that she left. And, as a result, it is hard for me to believe that I will be the same person either.
As I said earlier, we are influenced by the words of those whom we love and cherish. But we are more deeply moved by their experiences and lifestyle. And if Dorothy and Toto are no longer in Kansas anymore, neither is Auntie Em.