There is a story that is told of a young Chassidic man who grew up studying Torah and praying with a community in a Bet Midrash, a house of study. Over time, he felt confident that he could competently learn and pray on his own, and did not need the community to have a strong relationship with God. In fact, he was a bit of an introvert, and preferred time alone anyway. He approached the Rebbe and announced that he would be continuing his learning and spiritual life on his own. He would no longer be returning to study and pray with this or any other community.
The Rebbe, without saying a word walked over to the fireplace where a mound of coals were burning giving off intense heat and light. He moved one of the coals apart from the mound so that it was off to the side by itself. The two of them watched as the singular coal got colder and colder, nearly extinguishing. At that moment, the Rebbe pushed it back to the mound, and once again it ignited into a bright and productive flame.
The student didn’t say a word. And he showed up the next day.
I met today with a local community organizer who listened closely to my hopes and thoughts regarding the potential of an El Sistema nucleo in New Orleans. She had invited me to lunch with her family, and we all ate po-boys as her son's cute 3 month old puppy was petted by every passerby. We talked about a lot of things with her family, mainly the amazing baseball game last night and her son's burgeoning career as a writer. When she was driving me home, our discussion centered around the amazing abundance of quality musical performance around New Orleans. This led to the point that even though most communities have access to music exposure, there are many in the city that have no access to music education. And beyond that, many children in these communities have no access to a community of peers- to a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. Without a sustaining understanding and flame of community, like the story above, it is much easier for these children's light to diminish and burn out. I expressed my desire to connect to social programs who would be interested in El Sistema as a unique form of intervention. After lunch, and our conversation, this wonderful woman expressed interest in being an ally and advocate for the work within her community, offering to connect me to others that might be interested in the work and the questions I was asking. Then we hugged, I took the left-over half of my giant shrimp po-boy into the house, sat down, and smiled.
Questions of the day:
What communities are you a part of?
What benefits does being a part of community bring?