The routine is familiar. Every weekday, after the morning rituals are through, we open the front door, pass through the swinging gate, turn left past our cohousing neighbors (pictured above), hang another left at the corner, and walk the mile to my daughter’s preschool. We go by the same houses, cross the same streets, and see the same mini-parks. There’s a familiarity to all this, and in a way it’s comforting. Sometimes when we do something so often, however, we stop noticing, stop really looking at where we are, for we assume we know all that surrounds us, and come to believe there’s not much more to explore.
But there’s always more than meets the eye, and our Challah-it-Forward journey thus far has begun to peel the layers of our neighborhood in rich and meaningful ways. For who would have thought that right next to Strawberry Creek Playground, with its uber-long slide, climbing discs, and swing-lines, sits Chaparral House, a gem of an eldercare community that’s been in the neighborhood since the early 70’s. As part of their rich offerings that include beautifully maintained gardens, regular music appreciation, and art classes, Chaparral House provides Friday night services and Kiddush for its small but active Jewish community. When I contacted the volunteer manager back in September to see if we might be able to share our challah, he invited us to a Friday night service, which turned out to be the first of now-monthly visits.
Who knew that right next to Charlie Dorr Park, with its tot-swings (Aviva is almost too big for them now!) and massive sandbox, sits the almost-hidden and un-marked Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center, which has provided a huge array of services to homeless and low-income women and their children for over 25 years? What a pleasant surprise when we first discovered that the volunteer coordinator at the Center had grown up attending local synagogues, and was now a regular at Urban Adamah, one of our favorite neighborhood institutions. And what an impression she made on Aviva when she personally thanked her for doing her part to ensure Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World).
What other neighborhood discoveries will we make over the coming year? Only time will tell (if there are West Berkeley readers who have ideas, please let us know!). I can only hope that as my daughter grows, she’ll continue to look past the familiar and beyond the known, continually making new discoveries and connections along the way.