To my fellow out-of-towner,
I am also an out-of-towner. A real, hardcore out-of-towner. As in, I don’t go home every other Shabbos, and my family life is a solid 4 hour plane ride away (excluding taxi time and airport security). When I get homesick, I don’t book my next train ride home but rather dial my mother’s cell, let it all out, and then suck it right back in.
I have learned to be content with meeting my baby sister two months after she was born, and watching the little ones in my family give me nothing more than a shy smile upon my arrival home. And to the travel time and the homesickness, to the urgent need to grow up, to the obligation to always be in a good mood, to be thankful, to be nice, to be polite. To the laundry, the babysitting to buy shampoo and toothpaste, the constant presence of those you are not comfortable around; to these I can relate. After all, I live out of town, and such are my realities.
But after reading your article “In Town, Out of Touch” stating the lack of sensitivity projected towards us children, I felt compelled to write. After all, I’ve also had dealings with Nevel.
Nevel; a community of incredible people who host an endless amount of seminary, yeshiva, and overseas guests. Families who open up their homes time and time again for strangers, and people in need. But you should know Nevel–the people you invest the most quiet effort in, are the people who appreciate you the most…
…When you invite me time and time again, despite my constant embarrassed no thank you’s.
…When my meal is canceled three hours before Shabbos and you respond to my timid text of, “is my invitation still open?” with a thrilled “of course!!”, as if you wanted nothing better from your day than to hear such good news.
…When you constantly make sure that I am happy with my morning class and am getting enough sleep.
…When you find out I have nowhere to eat this week, and you remind me that I have rejected your invite way too many times and “no questions asked!” was expected tonight. When my mother is phoned to be made aware of my setbacks, my progress, and my potential.
…When I show up without invitation and you assume that my invite had simply slipped your mind. When you stretch yourself way beyond your limit, mentally and physically.
To you, Nevel, I say thank you. I say thank you for providing me with warmth, I say thank you for providing me a place to call home in these four years that will shape me to who I will become, for unconditionally opening up your homes and hearts to me.
And each time I return home, it is not with horror stories of my time in Nevel, but rather with stories of endless kindnesses and hachnasas orchim, urging my family to learn from this one’s gigantic dining room table, and another’s quiet sensitivity to a failing student. I return boasting about the community, my special teachers, and about the few blocks that are, for the time being, my life.
And to my school, I say: thank you. Thank you for caring, thank you for allowing me to extend my plane ticket until after Shabbos, thank you for organizing countless programs to ease my adjustment into this new world.
And to my teachers, I say: thank you. Thank you for remaining with me after school to make up what I missed upon my returning home, thank you for taking the time to phone my mother on my progress she is so proud to hear of, thank you for allowing me to retake the test I was absent for in the privacy of your own home.
And to my friends’ parents, I say: thank you. Thank you for urging your daughter to invite her out of town friends for a Shabbos meal, for stopping them in the store to find out how their trip home was, for inquiring which of them need a place for Yom Tov.
How lucky I feel to have Nevel in my life. A place outstanding in its commitment to nurturing chassidus, a place bursting with families who constantly go out of their way for us children, for the ‘insignificant out-of-towners.’ The ones you will not receive public credit for, and the ones who might eventually forget you. Thank you.
And to you, my fellow out of towner, I say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had such an experience, I am sorry that you were forced to deal with the minority of people here who just don’t care, and I’m sorry you have not been privileged to recognize the greatness of this place called Nevel – the place I proudly recognize as family.