I am home from a really inspiring evening & feel the need to take a moment to tip my hat to a friend who really put herself out there tonight.
I've mentioned this before, but I will reiterate it: our winter abode sits nestled in a teeny, tiny, geographically & culturally isolated Western town. When I typed in a population search, Google's creepy new technology offered me this search answer: "Best guess for E'town's Population is 818." I don't believe that all 818 of those people actually live here year-round, but I'll go with it for illustrative purposes.
Let's just (safely) assume that about 650 of the the 818 are LDS/Mormon, active or otherwise, give or take 50-75 people. Then, we'll guess the "other Christians" who attend the Baptist church number 50 or so (although I confess I don't have a good read on that particular group). I have a better sense of the Catholic population which I believe currently stands at 5. Then of course, there are the rest of us who are less easily classified, but fall under labels like "unaffiliated," "not religious," "not active," "not telling," etc., who make up the remainder. There's also our friend June. She is, as far as I know, the only Jewish person in town & quite possibly the only Jew in the county.
Tonight, June threw a thoroughly enjoyable, gracious, educational, open & heartfelt Chanukah party. She held a candle ceremony (letting our Little Lad light the first candle) & sang. She made homemade latkes, kuegel & doughnuts. She shared books about Chanukah for all ages, provided dreidels & candy with tutorials for playing games. She even created a PowerPoint slideshow about Chanukah which played on the television in the living room. She answered countless questions, over & over with grace & eloquence.
More importantly, she inspired a whole slew of people to go learn something outside their own sphere of experience. Several people privately confessed to me that they knew little or nothing about the holiday & felt they needed to "do some homework" before coming to the party. They didn't want to feel, or be, or appear ignorant. Good for them. While I was surprised at how little people knew about Chanukah, I was very encouraged by the sincere interest everyone had in learning. They wanted to know what it meant & how it was important to her. They wanted to be able to understand & appreciate what it was that moved her so deeply that she would put herself out there, invite so many people into her home & share with them. They wanted to learn, experience & grow beyond themselves, even if just a little bit. All thanks to June.
Tonight, she led me to examine my own public & private faces.
Tonight, she owned it. With pride.
Tonight, she is my hero.