“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” On the first official day of not only 2012, but also of Miami Alternative Break, the president of Temple Israel of greater Miami offered this proverb. This quote truly has meaning to me especially considering I can still remember it at the end of the day. What it signifies is very simple, yet also very profound: together we can. One person may not have the resources to accomplish a goal, but when band together as a community of any size, anything is possible.
Aside from poverty and social justice, one core theme of this trip is community. What is it? How do we get it? Can we create it? If so, how? Even the term community service has the intrinsic value of “community” built in it. Among the myriad of activities we participated in today, we began with community service in one of Miami’s prominent graveyards. I personally contributed by raking leaves around the graves and disposing them in garbage bags. When looking back on the morning, however, I don’t necessarily think about the physical work, but rather the symbolism behind it. I worked with people I hadn’t previously spoken to, and by fusing two rakers together and two bag holders together, this service in itself helped to create a small community for myself. It wouldn’t have been as significant if we hadn’t worked together to accomplish the task. By starting the trip facing death, I am more encouraged to enhance life.
Later in the day, after basking in the sun for a little while, we were confronted with a speech by Doreen, a speaker from the organization faces of the homeless. To keep things brief and light, her story basically resembled the reality of an episode of Law and Order: SVU, except that her story took place over thirty years rather than a single hour. After hearing the horrific story, and asking many questions, my immediate thought was what am I going to do about this? There were so many deeper concerns, thoughts, and frustrations that overwhelmed me. No one should ever go through what this woman went through. Although, I am glad I heard this story, because it was just the piece I needed to inspire me for the rest of this week. Her story helped explain the reason why I am here.
Beyond all of the ice breakers, beautiful weather, and delicious meals, this trip is about making a difference to both those we are helping and also to ourselves. How can we help them and how can helping them help us individually? This day was full of questions, full of sun, and full of fun. It was a fantastic beginning to what I believe will be a very meaningful week.