One of the things my son was looking forward to most about 8th grade was the Advanced Orchestra trip to Hawaii that the 8th graders in his school take every year. He had been thrilled when he’d first heard of it during his Junior High orientation and he’d fundraised last year to help send the previous class. It’s one of the pivotal events of Junior High in his school, something that inspires a lot of kids to stick with Orchestra even as their elective options increase. For Ian, it was a dream as he’d never been to Hawaii, unlike most Alaskan kids.
This fall, we discovered that the trip had been scheduled over Passover.
His face fell when we got the news of the dates. Before, we were willing to figure out how to work kosher food, how to adjust travel times around Shabbos, anything so that he could be involved. With one email confirming the dates were set, his dream was gone. He smiled bravely to us, but I knew he was heartbroken. The year went on and he still fundraised so that his classmates could go. He still practiced the songs they would be playing there along with the orchestra. He still loved his viola. I couldn’t have been prouder of him.
This week, his fellow orchestra students are excitedly packing their bags and finalizing their trip plans. He is helping me clean for Passover. His classmates are packing sunscreen and talking about swimming with sea turtles. He is helping me plan Seder menus.
And yet, he remains upbeat, proud, his kippah still on his head at school.
This…this is what it means to be an observant family far from an observant community. It means living by what you believe even when it’s really hard and my son has really integrated that into himself. He never once pleaded or bargained with us to make the trip once he found out it was during Passover. He didn’t complain to his teacher or demand we protest to the school. Instead, he used it as an opportunity to be a light to his fellow students, to show them that he would stand by his beliefs even when it was hard and that he would still support them even though it might sting.
One fundraiser, he waited tables for a meal he couldn’t eat to raise money for a trip he would never go on. Later, the parents that sat at his tables came to me to tell me what an amazing young man he is.
I just smiled and said, “I know…we’re very blessed.”
We have promised him, after we settle in our new community, a trip to Israel with us to celebrate all that he has accomplished. I think it’s time to buy him a travel guide for Israel that he can read over Passover so that he has a picture in his mind of the promised land after all this time in our own desert.
I’m certain that Hashem is also very proud of him.