My father-in-law recently passed away in Israel.
My husband immediately got on a plane to attend his father’s funeral.
When there is a tragedy the distance between Israel and the US becomes so much greater than the 7557 miles it is in reality.
I am trying to parent my three teenage girls with grace and compassion.
The distance between who I am and who I want to be is greater than I would like to admit.
As I get older it is becoming clear to me that the distance between what I have, what life has given me, and what I thought waits for me in life is also greater than I imagined.
Distances. We can measure them in miles or kilometers. We measure weight in pounds, temperature in Centigrade or Fahrenheit and air in volume and pressure.
I don’t know how to measure the distances from my heart, to my mind, to my soul, and then to reality.
I spend my days driving in LA from places where people have great privilege to places where the poverty is so grave that people do not know where their next meal will come from.
I spend significant time in my car trying to figure out how to close the distance. How can we make it disappear or at least be smaller? How do we create bridges between those who have and those who have not?
The body of my work and the work of The Advot Project is making connections, closing the gap, creating unity, and a sense of community where there is none.
The distance between the richest, most lavish neighborhoods in LA to skid row, one of the most highly populated homeless neighborhoods in the USA, is about 11 miles.
In reality these places could not be farther apart.
The distance between the jails and the juvenile detention facilities and the people who love them is impossible to bridge. For those on the outside the lack of public transportation and financial means makes visits that are crucial for the well being of those incarcerated sometimes absolutely unattainable.
I am always amazed at how incredibly lucky I am. In my sorrow the voice of my sweet friend who can lift me up is just a phone call away.
I have the ridiculous good fortune to have people in my life that, if I ask, would be at my doorstep before I finished the sentence.
I have sat with people who are radically different from me. They may have a different skin color and practice a different religion, yet we could not be closer because we share the intention of creating a better world.
I know that sometimes the biggest of fights and hatred are really just a conversation away from peace and love, and as silly as it sounds, love is the one ingredient that can make all distances dissolve.
I have watched students of mine travel huge distances from where they were when I met them to where they are today, and suddenly there is no distance at all.
People are always surprised when a girl who was in my program is in college, or when a 16-year-old mom against all odds is parenting, and doing it well, or when one of my Homies does his job better than expected.
“Wow,” they say to me. “They have come so far!”
“No,” I always answer. “They are simply embodying who they were always meant to be, and that was always, I repeat, always there. You just didn’t see it or chose not to believe it.” I always believe or try my very best to.
Long ago I was performing “Flowers Aren’t Enough,” my one-woman show that deals with domestic abuse. It was deep in the south and I had a driver because we were going to rural areas. Seriously, godforsaken places that only someone local could get me to.
I was driven around by a lovely man for three days.
We talked about theology and life.
We talked about love and family. We talked about food and money.
When he dropped me off at the airport, he confessed to me,
“Sugar, I never met no Jewish people in my life. I was worried as hell when I came to pick you up, but damn, you are a far, I am telling you, a far cry from what I thought you would be.” And then he added, “You and I are so much closer than I could ever imagine.”
I gave him a hug and said, “There really was never a distance between us.”
“Correction, Sweetheart” he said, “I just hauled your white, Jewish ass all over distances here in the deep south. It was the distance that brought us together and made us close!”
“Yes, it did,” I said.
There are distances that we can make go away if we work on them.
There are distances that are seriously figments of our imagination.
And then there are distances, like Israel is to me right now, that are real and very hard to get over.
What I have learned in this lifetime is that we have more of a choice than we think we have, in the distances we put between others and ourselves.
A mom who couldn’t visit her son in the detention facility where he was incarcerated wrote him a letter every day.
She wrote in Spanish.
He barely could read English.
He didn’t understand a word she wrote, but he knew what she was saying.
He is now getting a master’s degree in sociology.
“She didn’t have to leave the house to go the distance,” he once told me.
I invite you to reach out to the person who feels the farthest away from you right now. You might actually be surprised at how close they really are.
“Sometimes a person has to go a very long distance out of his way to come back a short distance correctly.” Edward Albee