By Dena Adler
Travel opens us up to discovery of the great diversity of this universe. While that diversity may encompass the worlds of technology or architecture, this summer during Project Life what touched me most was the simple gifts we share among hosts and guests. On one activity day a group of adolescents from local schools, the four children from Ingushetia and Chechnya, and young volunteers and adults in the program representing various cultures and religions sat in a circle. Before us, in the center, we had collected a variety of breads from around the world.
The naan had been freshly made that morning by a teen from Afghanistan hosted here within Project Life. He could not attend, but his sister brought the warm bread to share; to taste his naan is a rich sensory experience in itself. In an exercise asking, “What is something you have never done before?” a teen from Albion, NY stated, “I have never made bread before.” Those words showed such gratitude, respect and appreciation. May the simple gift of bread show us how alike we are; may the breaking of bread bring us together.
The young orphans traveling to the U.S., so far away from their homes, take a big risk at an early age. While we sometimes sense the courage within them, my heart opens when they allow themselves to shed tears that all can see. My family lives very close to the airport and as a result we have been delighted over the past several years to host the weary children for their first night and morning in America. It begins with trepidation as two lapping dogs jump to greet them; they are quickly faced with a new experience as dogs tend to be street animals in their country.
Watching young Linda grow: One of the dearest experiences for me this summer was watching how young Linda grew. For much of her first 24 hours here, she cried. With little language between us, it was touch, coloring and homemade “blini” that seemed to bring some rest to her sad and anxious little soul. As the summer went on, she forged relationships and threw herself into the program activities, eventually showing her spunky and adventurous personality. In our goodbyes at the airport, she shed many tears, as deep and sorrowful as when she first arrived. She had deeply connected with her friends here at Project Life.
During the previous week Linda had shared parts of her life story out loud, speaking in Russian so that she could be descriptive and clear. It was so valuable to have a translator share her words to best represent what was in Linda’s heart. During that session, Linda told us that even if we did not think that she understood us, she did. To me, that is a powerful statement that symbolizes the simple essence of our shared humanity.