During these days leading up to the High Holidays, Rosh Ha Shana and Yom Kippur, we are expected to reflect on the last year, on own our short comings and make amends. Every year this process makes me realize how much I meant to do, how much better I meant to be, and then I pray that I will be given the chance to be a better version of me in the new year.
Reflecting back on 5772, I am taking time to reflect on the first year of Shelter of Peace, SOP, and what I learned. The facts and figures regarding the numbers of homeless LGBT youth and the paltry number of shelter beds for them is shocking. The subject is rife with devastating numbers and they tell part of the story. It’s one reason we stay the course . We must. Once you know, you cannot turn away. I share these horrible numbers with others in order to shock them as well, and then implore upon them to help. We know we need enormous numbers of people from the faith community to speak out loud and clear to our government leaders on behalf of these kids.
There is another aspect to this work that fills me with the energy and determination to keep up the fight. Reflecting on the year that’s quickly coming to an end, I am also aware of the gifts my involvement with SOP has offered me. I have had the great good fortune to meet and get to know many people of other faiths who are devoted to the ministry of helping our homeless children. They are generous in their kindness. Not only has no clergy person I have ever contacted turned me away, time and time again they have said thank you to me for our spearheading this work. Our friend Carl Siciliano, the Executice Director of the Ali Forney Center, recently told us that he is so grateful to have our growing SOP network working on behalf of the kids so that he is no longer out there, fighting on their behalf, alone. Carl is our hero, and apparently he thinks very highly of us. One day I was walking along 8th Ave, after Shabbat morning services at CBST. I ran into and then was embraced by someone I have gotten to know very well thanks to the opportunities this work has given the two of us to collaborate. There have been events at our synagogue as well as in her church. There we were, both of us out of our neighborhoods, not in our roles as activists, chatting and catching up like friends. A year ago we were strangers to one another.
A few years ago, at the Neila service on Yom Kippur, Rabbi Kleinbaum’s words inspired me to think about the following year and how I would want to feel at the end of that year as I looked back. What could I do that would bring a little tikun olam, repairing the world, to our community?
Days before Rosh Ha Shana and the Days of Awe, I am ticking off all of my assorted shortcomings and hoping G-d gives me an opportunity to find that better version of me in 5773. I will make every effort to continue to do what I can to make a small contribution towards repairing the world. Yes, the mission of Shelter of Peace is to solve a horrible problem. There are overwhelming numbers of homeless LGBT kids who have been grossly neglected by the adults they are supposed to trust and rely on for their well being, their own parents and adult members of their community, as well as our legislative leaders.
The work is often tough, frustrating and overwhelming, but it also bestows many moments of joy and gratitude. I would be remiss not to reflect on and declare at least some of the exceptional experiences I had and the special people I met last year, because of Shelter of Peace.
Shana Tova! A Happy and Healthy New Year to All!