By Chaya Nessa Krycer, Featured Writer, DOJLife.com
There are some things in life that are impossible to fathom unless you’re brought up with the concept. Many foods come under this category, such as jarred gefilte fish and p’cha (All the Sephardim in our community are emphatically nodding their heads).
However, although food is a weighty topic itself (no pun intended, but now that I’ve noticed it I may as well leave it in), this article will discuss the theory from a different angle — one pertaining to life situations that, although strange, once you’re brought up with them, you won’t even bat an eyelash. Those fortunate enough to have lived in an out-of-town community for a considerable amount of time can easily understand. You see, those of us who were born in such obscure locales like Dallas never could have imagined far distant lands where just by closing your eyes and counting the first ten people who pass by, you have a minyan.
In my case, the shocking truth was revealed to me at the tender age of thirteen. I did not have my reality jolted through my family’s purchase of the Hamodia, or any of the other widely circulated Jewish magazines that, surprise surprise, are written and distributed in the Tri-state area. I met my Waterloo when I first attended sleep away camp in the Catskill mountains. How proudly naive I was, blissfully unaware of the culture shock that would practically bite me in the face.
Of the many incidences, one stands out in my mind. My counselor (a young girl of sixteen at the time) asked me where I was from. When I answered, she excitedly began to name all the Dallasites of whom she had the good fortune to make an acquaintance. One girl. (My words, not hers). When she discovered that I knew personally the one friend she met from Dallas, her world shook, and heaven and earth became jumbled together, fricasseed in a befuddling mound.
And then it happened. She asked me the one question that changed my outlook on life forever. (Warning: the following passage is not for the faint of heart. Best advised to sit in an easy chair with a bottle of smelling salts at arms reach, before continuing on). This innocent born and bred Lakewooder said, “And how do you know that family?” Shocked as I was, (but not too shocked not to be passive-aggressive) I told her. I think it took about ten minutes to describe all the ways I knew this family. I considered her question exceptionally ludicrous. In an out of town community, the question is never “How do you know them?” It’s “How do you not know them?” What roles have they not filled in your daily life? This particular family had a few daughters around my age and a few daughters around my sister’s age. Not only that, but several members of the family were also my teachers, and later my bosses. They had also hosted me for various occasions, and given me rides in their car, to name a few illustrations of the many reasons I would be acquainted with this family. The list went on and on.
I originally thought the question my counselor asked stemmed from a place of supreme ignorance in the ways of the world. That is, until another conversation with a friend of mine, coincidentally, also a resident of the illustrious Tri-state area. She was discussing how awkward it would be to run into a teacher from her school, and that, fortunately, the experience had rarely happened to her. Quite confused, I asked her “Do you never see your teachers at shul, or at the supermarket, or other local places? Do you never eat at their houses for Shabbos, or babysit for their kids?” She explained to me (very patiently, as she is thank goodness accustomed to the ignorance of her out of town friend), that in her community (Brooklyn, if you must know) most people have only one role. Your teacher is your teacher, your neighbor is your neighbor, etc. It is unusual for someone to impact you from different positions.
That was when I realized what a special concept we have in Dallas. Everyone wears many different hats. Your principal can very well be your yoga instructor, your camp director, and your best friend’s mother. (For the adults reading, feel free to fill it in with a more applicable example). We all affect each other in infinite ways.
I, personally, am so blessed to live in a community like Dallas, where everything you do makes a striking impression on everyone else. We are given a powerful tool, to be able to affect so many people in hundreds and thousands of different ways. The more hats we wear, the more connections we have to others and the more chances we have to make a difference in their lives. This gives us more of an incentive to be patient and kind to others, as I’ll always be wondering, what will you say when someone asks you about me, “How do you know her?”