This past Sunday, I attended a piano recital here in Harare. This was the first piano recital I witnessed since I stopped taking piano lessons when I was thirteen, and it was lovely. The oldest student to perform was a man named Philip. He was probably in his 70s. There was an older woman who came with him, whom I was told was his sister. Philip was extremely nervous and froze at the piano, which is completely normal and understandable when trying to perform in front of a large group. In the end, he couldn’t get through the song (I did hear him play it later, and he was wonderful). But while he was sitting at the piano during the recital, something beautiful happened. As he was sitting there, trying to remember which note came next, I heard his sister call out, “you can do it, Philip!” I was so touched by this encouragement. Even so far from home, I receive so much encouragement from my sister and brother, Hinda and Avi, back in the States. I am so thankful for this support, and I hope that some day, when I am as old as Philip, I can repay them by standing by their side, cheering them on (or embarrassing them by doing the wave from the audience as our family tends to do).
This week will be my first Thanksgiving away from my family. It was always so important to us to all be together and spend that time with one another. I cannot say that I am not sad I will be missing it this year. But although I’ll be missing out on turkey, or in my case, tofurkey, Octoberfest, watching the parade on TV, and the big production of making my mom’s unbeatable pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes look like a pumpkin patch, I know I can still celebrate the most important part of Thanksgiving: being thankful. And as my Dad and I told one another over Skype the other day just some of the things we are both thankful for, including good health, opportunities we’ve both had this year, and of course, one another, I realized I have a huge amount to be thankful for this year.
Since last Thanksgiving, I traveled to Israel, staffed TRY and formed a family of 55, returned to Poland, giving me an even greater appreciation of my history, explored two new countries with one of my closest friends, witnessed Hinda marrying the love of her life, spent Rosh Hashanah with the whole family and attended a service led by Hinda as a newly ordained cantor, came to Zimbabwe and was welcomed into the Lemba community with open arms, traveled to another new country where I made many new friends, celebrated (remotely) my parents’ 34th wedding anniversary – 34 years of pure happiness, and returned to Zimbabwe to continue my teaching. In addition to all of that, I have the strongest support system I could imagine back in New Jersey. If I did not know what appreciation felt like before, I definitely do now.
On Rosh Hashanah in Chevy Chase, the Rabbi asked what we hope for this new year. I raised my hand and said I wish for new opportunities and the ability to see the same situations with new eyes. It is hard being so far from my family, especially this time of year, but I am thankful for this opportunity. I am thankful to be learning so many valuable traits from the people around me, who are humble, gracious, and patient. I am thankful to be in a place that is opening my eyes to very new things. I hope for everyone else that this Thanksgiving will be filled with as much love and blessing as this past year has given me.
In honor of Thanksgiving, Kulanu included this video in their Newsletter, and I thought it was really beautiful. This is the Lemba singing Hodu (Psalm 136), a psalm of thanks, in Shona.