Saturday, November 3, 2012
Oh The Places You'll Go, and the People You'll Meet
Dear Family and Friends:
I know its been a long time since I've written. Retirement life can be quite busy. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to work with, teach, and celebrate Shabbat with some pretty wonderful college students (I think they are starting to like me too). I am teaching a class called "Storytelling and Torah-telling." There are only a few students in the class, but they are great. We started the semester with me telling them stories and then looking at stories in Genesis. We talk about the structure, style, drama and characters in the stories. Now we are beginning to create our own stories. It's an interesting class.
One of the Storytelling students is from China. Her name is Whu He, pronounced, "You He." Indiana University has literally thousands of foreign students, many from Asia. Whu is very quiet and thoughtful. She asks questions but usually waits for me to ask her for her thoughts on anything we are discussing.
Last week we had a Shabbat Rocks Erev Shabbat service. It is like a camp song session, six or seven guitarists ( two are G.U.C.I. kids...I boast), no readings, we just go from song to song to prayer, to song. Very cool. We get a lot of kids to each month's Shabbat Rocks. There is a lot of spirit in the room and Shabbat dinner (and blessings) downstairs afterwards is always full and lively and ...well, wonderful. I wasn't surprised to see Whu at Shabbat Rocks. There are usually several non-Jewish students who attend. Some may be boy or girlfriends of Jewish kids, some just come because they are interested.
Today, parents' weekend on campus, I was invited to do a Shabbat intro at a Fraternity house on campus. After a welcome, a story, and leading the table blessings I returned to Hillel for dinner. There was Whu. I sat next to her so we had a chance to talk. I asked her how she found Hillel at the beginning of the semester and she told me she looked up "Jewish life on campus," and there we were. She enrolled in the class and started coming to services and Shabbat dinners. "What made you interested in Jewish life on campus?" was my next question.
Sometimes a person or a sentence or a conversation can be so inspiring. Whu told me that on her way home from school in China everyday she passed what she called an underground Jewish group. She started to stop by to see what they were about. She also told me that her father used to tell her bible stories and even knew some teachings from other Jewish books. She said that all of this was outlawed in her country. Then she very quietly, kind of turning down her face, said, in a quiet voice, "I couldn't believe how lucky I was to find out that I could participate in Jewish life here in Bloomington." Whu He is not Jewish. Well, maybe she is, in her heart.
I can't believe how lucky I am to be able to meet people like Whu He. And ain't freedom grand!! No joke.