Right before my oldest was born 13 years ago, I remember how miraculously baby things showed up at my door.
My community of women did what women do so well. They rose to the occasion.
One brought me the pillow I had to sleep with, telling me it would change my nights forever.
The other one sat and instructed me how to use the breast pump. A friend offered some bags of pumped milk to keep in the freezer. I remember being mortified and slightly disgusted by the offer, only to find myself doing the same for a friend three months later.
Fast-forward 13 years and the same thing miraculously is happening as we approach my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. A friend schlepped across town on Saturday to pick up one of my kids so that I could take the Bat Mitzvah girl shopping. Five hours later she dropped her off with a smile and a hug asking, “Do you need anything else?”
Another friend delivered the jars for the candy bar at my doorstep. She didn't even need me to come to pick them up. Someone else simply called and asked, “What can I do?”
“Tell me what do you need me to take care of?”
A friend hosted a gathering for the prayer shawl and someone else is hosting the after brunch for my out-of-town guests.
How insanely lucky am I?
What a brilliant community I have!
Community-- the job of the community is to be there when you need them, to help, help you move through pain and pick you up when you feel like you can no longer go on.
When I was completely overwhelmed by the thousands of pictures that I have of my daughter trying to organize them for her montage, a friend simply sat down next to me and pointed out which pictures I should choose.
I think one of the biggest things that the children I serve who are detained in the LA County juvenile lock up facilities lack is a community.
You see their community has widespread prostitution, drug use and crime.
Their community promises them the illusion of safety, but really it is the most unsafe place possible.
Don't even get me started with what happens when these girls leave the incarceration facility.
Havoc, chaos and absolutely no support whatsoever.
I often wonder how change can ever happen when you don't have a community to support you, help you and keep your head above water.
I know I wouldn’t be able to make it.
Time and time again I watch these kids come out, and stand alone as the waves of life hit them full force.
How can they not turn around and end up right back where they started?
Recently one of my girls got out, and was put in a placement home that was not the right fit.
She called me when she left court to go there.
When I called to check in on her two days later, she was gone. She ran away.
That’s what these kids do when the going gets tough. They run.
Thank God nothing bad happened to her. She did not commit a crime. Forty-eight hours after she ran away and numerous texts to her mom, she ended up safe, in a place that can take care of her.
Where was her community?
Engaging with her mom made me realize how alone this girl is and how alone her mother is.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from these girls “I got no one.”
The street is their community. It is an unsafe, exploitive community that only takes and rarely gives.
When I look at my success stories and the kids that “make it,” there is always at least one person who helps them, supports them and is there for them.
We at the Advot Project try to be a community they can rely on.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl recently contributed to the Advot Project by funding for new theater props.
We purchased the coolest bag of really beautiful puppets.
I'm not sure that my community of contributors even understands how far I stretch every dollar I receive from them and how these contributions allow Advot to buy things that the girls I serve never had.
When I pulled out the puppets, we acted out scenarios and we had the most marvelous time.
As I was cleaning up, one of the girls said, “That's really funny, Ms. You had a whole group of people hiding in that bag. It's a portable community center.”
As my family arrives from Israel and begins to surround me for my daughter's upcoming Bat Mitzvah this weekend, as my spiritual community at my synagogue steps up and embraces us, and my friends take care of our every need, holding my hand through this emotional time, I know how lucky I am and appreciate every one of them.
I can only wish and pray that the girls that I work with experience in their lives just a tiny percentage of what I have been showered with in the past few weeks.
Because if they could feel what I am experiencing, and have the immense privilege I am wrapped in, I know they would be OKAY.
Oh, my goodness, they would be so much more than just OKAY.
So I now am committed to doing more than ever, to trying harder and absolutely doing my best to be their community. Will you join me?
Join us for “LISTEN” on October 30th @ the Broad stage!