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Coming Home

We just had our last Shabbat at Neve. It's crazy how fast time flies here. Shabbat was filled with even more ruach than usual because of the energy we all put in to maximize our last Shabbat of the summer.

After beautiful Shabbat dinners in our respective kevutzot, a buzz of energy circulated the home as everyone came outside to the main grassy area to chill, laugh, and spend time together. The energy continued into the next day with "Ana Bekoach" chants and Shabbat zmirot in the chadar ochel during our communal lunch.

The truth is that years from now, I'll probably forget who I spoke to Friday night and who I danced with during Shabbat lunch. But there is one experience from this Shabbat that I hope I will remember forever, and one conversation I hope I will never forget.

During the last hour of Shabbat, Rav Yair led a beautiful singing session outside of the chadar ochel. One of my girls didn't want to be with everybody, but I could tell she still wanted to be outside and sing. So we sat on a rock just an earshot away from everyone else and began to create our own "slow shira." We sang modern Hebrew songs as well as some of my favorite Jewish classics, "Vezakayni" and "Vehi Sheamda." We also talked. She told me inspiring stories she heard about Israeli soldiers at war. I could barely understand her since she was talking fast in Hebrew and mumbling, but thankfully I've become a pro this summer at nodding along and pretending to know exactly what's going on when my girls forget I am not a native speaker and begin talking at lightening speed with words I have never heard before.

It was incredible bonding for both of us and I could tell she felt the beauty of the experience as well as I did. Before we knew it, everyone was heading to the Beit Knesset for havdalah. One can never drink enough water in Israel so I told her I would run in to the bathroom quickly and then meet her outside. But when I returned, her mood had shifted drastically. She was sitting on the steps to the women section of the Beit Knesset with her head down, and I noticed that her eyes had stared to tear up.

I immediately sat down beside her. Sometimes I get nervous to ask my kids what's wrong because I don't want them to feel like I'm intruding. But this time my gut told me to say something, so I asked, "Is everything okay? Why are you sad?"

A few moments of silents passed, and then she looked up and responded. "You guys get to go home whenever you want, but I can't." My heart sank. She proceeded to tell me how she has been in children's homes for the past seven years, since the age of five. But all she wants is to be able to go home and live a normal life with her family, even though in reality her home is not the pretty safe haven she may like to picture in her mind.

This summer is about a lot of things- giving, experiencing, sharing, loving, creating. But for me, it is perhaps more than anything about appreciating my own life.

All of us volunteers have one thing in common- at the end of the day, we know that no matter where we are in life, we can always come home. Home to a loving, supportive family. Home to a support system that pushes us to experience the world and learn and grow. Sadly, this summer is a reminder that not everyone can relate on that common ground. I am lucky that coming home whenever I want is something I can take for granted and often do. But this Shabbat I learned that it is a blessing, a blessing that I pray my girl will one day share.

This conversation was yet another reminder this summer of how important it is to count my blessings every single day. Even things as simple as coming home. And my bracha to my co volunteers is that all of us on Kol Hanearim can retain the appreciation we have discovered or gained this summer for the rest of our lives

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