Thursday, April 28, 2011

Faith in Every Ladle

People feel spiritual in various ways these days. Some feel their holiest while standing in the luxurious sanctuaries of worship centers. Others reach their highest spiritual potentials while staring at breathtaking views in exquisite locations. I, like many, originally thought that true faith was limited to those factors. That, however, quickly changed for me during my spring break.
Throughout one week, I noticed that God’s presence is not only felt in temples and churches, but also in the heart of South Broward County. Upon my arrival at the Jubilee Center’s soup kitchen, I was not expecting this one week of community service to significantly alter my outlook on a cup of soup, a smile on someone’s face, or even the boundaries of my own faith. Of course, it only took an hour to exceed those expectations by a landslide.  
The Jubilee Center, based off of the biblical concept of jubilee, or festivity, changes lives each and every day. This small facility is filled with both experienced social service workers and selfless volunteers, all who cater to the needs of the Jubilee benefactors. Every morning, the Jubilee Center serves over one hundred hot meals, ensuring that no one is left hungry. Families of any size and economical state are guaranteed undivided attention and nourishment during their daily visits, and even some of the most close minded people leave this soup kitchen and center smiling. Despite the recession and all the ignorance in the world, I take comfort in knowing that inside the doors of the Jubilee soup kitchen, the potentials to create our own jubilee are endless.
Every day at the Jubilee center is a miracle that is never taken for granted. Each bowl of soup is ladled and received with the upmost gratitude. The volunteers, varying from students, parents, and a seventy-eight year old former military officer, smile voluntarily and serve with not only with spoons and tongs, but also with their hearts. Without the chefs, social workers, and the committed, altruistic volunteers who never fail to smile each day, this thriving community haven would be lifeless.
Perhaps the most inspirational aspect of the Jubilee center is the receiving, grateful community. As over one hundred meals are served daily with no prior menu, each tray of food is returned with a thankful response. The people, varying in age, race, and gender, not only respect the food they are given, but also each other. Frequently, I noticed men standing courteously behind women, and the singles would create seating room for families. Prior to each meal, the entire community, including the Jubilee staff and volunteers, gathers in a circle just outside the front door, bows their heads, and prays in unity. At that very moment, all the gloves, hairnets, and differences in religion and race are put aside. During that powerful moment of prayer, I was holding hands with a man who did not know where his next meal would be, but praised God anyway. At that moment, with our eyes closed, we gratefully blessed the things we have in life today, rather than what we didn’t have. Each day of my spring break, I watched our united faith override hunger.
While the world is still far from arriving at universal and eternal peace, the places like the Jubilee Center only bring us closer to that goal. Synagogues, churches, and breathtaking views will still be open after we make a difference in our local communities. While there is still a sense of spirituality at those locations, it is the places like the Jubilee Center that expand our boundaries of faith and put our lives in perspective.  
This past week, I gained an understanding that God is not only available through prayer, rituals, or studying. Faith can be as beautiful and as simple as ladling soup into a bowl. The love and faith shared in each bowl of soup at the Jubilee Center proved that God really is working all around us; He dwells among us through both the brightest and dimmest times.
Since my eye-opening spring break, I wake up every morning thanking God for giving me faith, and the Jubilee Center for sustaining it.   

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Genesis 2:18

It is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him.  Genesis 2:18
Since the Bible began, it has been proven that everyone needs a life-long partner. Through the good times and bad, we have always needed people to bring out the best in ourselves. While it may not be admitted today, people see the better parts of themselves through their loved ones; we are truly driven to inspire those who inspire us.
Biblically, it’s stated that the first created man, Adam, could not lead a future alone; he needed a life-long spiritual partner. Today, statistics present the inexorable truth: people are evidently happier when they’re with others. I can relate, as I have been blessed with someone who can bring out the upmost happiness in any person, including me, for the past sixteen years of my life. While I may not have been alive to experience the formation of the first Bible or man, I live each and every day of my life carrying the sense of happiness that accompanied Adam in his early stages of life: I have a life-long friend who corresponds to me. And just like Eve, the first created woman, my spiritual other half is beautiful.
To say that my twin sister, Carly, was a gift I had been searching for since birth would be a little far-fetched. I was never offered the opportunity to be an only child in my family. Technically, I was only granted thirteen minutes to bask in the independence and honor of being the first-born daughter, and ever since those short minutes, I have never been alone. Looking back, however, I really didn’t even need those thirteen minutes of “freedom.”
As a twin and sister, Carly is my friend by blood. We live and get along under the same roof, look fairly similar, and respect each other in the ways that good siblings should. Between the ages of six through twelve, our hobbies remained relatable and our passions had yet to be discovered. Throughout those years, people naturally assumed we were the best of friends, and I naturally agreed. At the time, it had never occurred to me that our hobbies would later evolve along with our similar friends and undiscovered passions. I had never realized that my twin sister would only grow more and more integral in my life, my social status, and my spiritual perspective.
Since Adam and Eve were originally the only human begins placed on earth, they learned to bond with each other. Later, however, they grew together as siblings and began to form a life-long friendship which then inspired the further creations of humanity. Though the two were created with God’s essence in order to inspire the world, they did so by choice. I am proud to say that under any circumstance, Carly is my beautiful best friend—by choice.
Once we entered a new chapter of our lives, or high school, Carly and I grew closer while our choices and preferences differed. My sister discovered her light on stage, performing and mesmerizing audiences of any size. She sings, dances, acts, and writes and has been a pivotal addition to our school’s theatre department. I, on the contrary, have chosen to delve into spirituality and religion, taking comfort in Judaism and the studies of other faiths. While we each have chosen unique life paths for us, our common decision was our choice to remain trustworthy friends both inside and outside our home. Usually, the polarizing hobbies and ideas of entertainment would typically deter sisters from voluntarily becoming friends, but Carly and I have experienced the opposite. While our separate passions began to unfold, Carly and I have united together.
Siblings who see their friendships as “mandatory” do not recognize all the potential joys of living with a best friend. I understand that I need to respect, defend, and comfort my sister during rough times, but those acts of siblinghood are the bare minimums. I’ve realized that Carly is the kind of person and friend that I want to respect, defend, comfort, and love.
Like Adam and Eve, I pray that my sister and I will only grow closer as we enter new chapters of our lives. I pray that we will continue to embark upon days that bring us joy with gusto, (days filled with successful auditions and performances) and speedily overcome any obstacles (such as the rare rejections and heartbreaks, perhaps a little less rare for me) with strength. I pray that Carly will continue to honor God in everything she does, inspiring me to do the same. Like the first bond created on earth, we have the potential to inspire humanity for generations to come. We can change the world simply by respecting each other with our natural morals and most importantly- by choice.
To say that I am blessed is an understatement. I have a sister who chooses to be my friend and even includes me in her busy social life. I am fortunate to have a twin who not only is a loyal sister, but also my closest friend. With our different passions and interests, it’s almost just a coincidence that we look alike, but I’ve accepted that we’re different. While looking back, I would not trade in a single day with Carly for all the materialistic happiness in the world.  
Only sixteen years ago, my sister became my instant best friend by blood, but today, like the most intricate biblical creation, she is my eternal best friend by choice.
To Carly, my greatest friend; I hope your first of many prom dresses is only half as beautiful as you.