After months of anticipation and being reminded by the invitation posted on the fridge, Saturday was finally the day for the bar mitzvah. The morning brought rain and cold temperatures, but our enthusiasm would not be dampened. The ceremony began with prayers and songs, then is was time for the guest of honor to step behind the microphone. Without a hint of nervousness E began his sermon, centering his talk around the idea of community. He discussed the importance of seeking it out and creating your own; but in typical fashion, he introduced us to some rather quirky notions. Have you ever been to a bar mitzvah where there was talk of chickens falling from the sky and meat coming out of one’s nostrils? See, this one was special.
After the service there was time for games and dancing. We all took part, finding our groove on the dance floor, holding hands with strangers. The three of us left exhausted but completely and utterly content. As a family who isn’t routinely invited to weddings, baptisms and other celebrations, we found that we fit right in amongst the aunts, uncles and cousins. We couldn’t have had a better time.
Later that night while going over the events of the day, the highs and lows, I asked M his thoughts. His response was very interesting and one that had obviously been turning around in his brain for awhile. He told me again of the main who had recently come into his store holstering a gun. M couldn’t wrap his head around the need to have a weapon continuously on your person in a community such as ours. He wished the man could have been with us at the celebration, seeing the smiles, the joy, experiencing the pride we felt at seeing one of our dear friends meet such a milestone. Maybe then he wouldn’t have been so afraid of the world around him.
Or maybe this man should have accompanied us to hear the sophomore class recite their great speeches from history. Even though the auditorium was filled with 21st century kids you could close your eyes and transport yourself back. Back to the time of Mark Twain, Susan B Anthony, John Muir or the Salem witch trials. Their words had the ring of truth, their emotions were passionate, the need to convey a message or convince the audience of their point of view was intense and palpable. We traveled through the eras at lightning speed, leapfrogging from one historic moment to the next. Though some speeches touched me more than others, they all made me realize that one person has the power and ability to make a change but gathering together in a community keeps the wolves at bay. Those groups that form to champion a cause can be a comfort at times, a solace when needed. Wrapping yourself in their strength allows you to confront painful realities head on. Fear and courage are indeed two sides of the same coin.
But why should our tour stop there? If I had my way I’d take my mythical companion with me to the event celebrating the Young Writer’s Project. I think it would be beneficial for him to hear these young students reading aloud to a group of adults. The way their voices conveyed an eagerness, a desire for confidence, the thrill of being heard. Each of the founders of this group then took turns speaking to us that evening. They touched upon the importance of seeing one’s work in print, and how validating it was for a teen to see it on the website, in the newspaper and then perhaps hear their ideas broadcast on the radio. I wish there had been something like this when I was young. A chance to move some of my poetry from beyond the pink journal (adorned with an alligator emblem) where it was hidden. As each of these two men addressed the intimate audience, their passion for this project was evident. If ever a group believed the pen was mightier than this word– this was it. Words, words, words. Maybe more powerful then a gun. If only they could be everyone’s weapon of choice. Perhaps the true act of bravery. To that I say: Be not afraid.