This past week, my family has been visiting the island of Kauai. It’s been relaxing, fun-filled, and tiring! I’m learning that four-year-old vacation (and let’s be honest, regular life) energy is high, demanding, and non-stop! For the first part of our travels, we stayed in a very rustic, remote guesthouse, with little internet access, and definitely not a full kitchen. This clearly presented a problem as Shabbat approached. Luckily, we were switching to a more mainstream condominium with a proper oven on Friday afternoon, but I still needed to prepare the dough in the morning, and let it rise while on route to our new southern abode.
Which is why I found myself driving to the Kapaa Safeway at 8 in the morning to pick up challah ingredients! I turned on Hawaii Public Radio in my car, and learned that…drumroll please…the only person that I know who actually lives in Hawaii was the guest on the morning program; Dan Kelin, one of my fellow Kennedy Center Teaching Artists (who is also the Director of Drama Education at Honolulu Theatre for Youth), was being interviewed on HPR’s “The Conversation.” What are the chances of this serendipity!
Dan was speaking to the host about the role of creativity in students’ lives. Among many pithy discussion points, he mentioned that “Creativity is the basis of everything and anything we do in our lives. Period. End of sentence. You want to be able to do everything you do in a creative way.”
How, I wondered, could this idea apply to this year-long “Challah-it-Forward” challenge? After all, how creative is the process of making bread every week; mixing the ingredients, letting them rise, braiding the dough, and baking? But soon it became clear that creativity has been vitally important to this endeavor, particularly as a way to spice up what could become a mundane routine. For every week, we have to make so many creative choices; “What kind of Challah are we making?” “Who are we making it with?” “Who are we making it for?” “Where are we giving it?” “When are we giving it?” “WHY are we giving it?”
Is it for the Shabbat tables of family, friends, or neighbors? Is it for someone who is ill in the community who could use a thoughtful pick-me-up? Is it for someone who will receive a random act of kindness? Is it for the elderly in our community who live in a nearby eldercare facility? Or some of the clients of a local women’s daytime drop-in center? It is asking and answering these questions with my daughter every week that makes this a creative journey after all!
Dan also spoke at length about the role that theatrical craft plays in children’s lives, and I thought back to my own theatrical childhood, which included countless productions since I was a wee eight-year-old. Among the many lessons that have stayed with me all these years later is that of “perspective.” Whether it was playing Prince Chulalongkorn in “The King and I” and learning how unjust slavery is, or seeing “Les Miserables” and appreciating how “justice” can be manipulated, or falling in love with “Into the Woods,” which has provided me with ever-changing perspectives of childhood, parenthood, and the sometimes messy lives we lead!
It is my hope that this “Challah-it-Forward” challenge is also opening up Aviva’s eyes to new perspectives; that through the places we visit and the people she meets along the way, she will be that much more appreciative of the complex, fragile world that surrounds us all.
Which brings me back full circle to last Friday. For although I found myself in a bit of a panic after learning mid-morning that our plans to deliver the challahs to a local Jewish Family had fallen through, I was luckily able to quickly connect with the YWCA of Kauai, which runs a Family Violence Shelter, providing a 24-hour hotline, counseling, support groups, safety planning, referrals and advocacy, assistance with protective orders, and emergency shelter.
Though we couldn’t deliver our challah directly to the shelter, as their address is kept private for the safety of its clients, the Shelter Co-Director Kathy Friere agreed to meet us at an Ace Hardware for the hand-off! When we met her, she was delighted to receive the challah and a handmade card from Aviva, and explained to Aviva that the bread would be enjoyed by mothers and children who were “having a hard time” and needed a place to get the help they needed. She said that there were currently 9 women and 13 children staying at the shelter.
At our Shabbat table that night, after we made the blessing over the challah, we imagined how the 22 people at the shelter might be enjoying the bread at the exact same time that we were. Though the challah portions might be small, hopefully they would taste the love, care, and honey(!) that were in each piece!
A good week to all…