During the first few days of June I decided to sign up for a Jewish social justice ten-day vacation to Thailand with a program called Justifi. While there I helped young Thai children learn English and simultaneously soaked up Thai culture. It was a life-changing experience that was so far removed from my comfort zone, and I didn’t think I could ever top it.
During that trip, my friend Lisa Kaplan invited me to the Hazon Labor Day Bike Ride and Retreat. She excitedly talked about how it was the weekend she looks forward to most all year. She told me there was some small fundraising involved but to give it a chance. So, the risk taker I am, I said ‘yes’ immediately.
I started with a lot of self-doubt: I didn’t know if I would able to endure the miles or reach my fundraising goal. I started training with my sister on shorter, weekly, bike rides. At the same time, small donations started to come in week by week. Throughout this process I started to gain more confidence.
About three weeks before the bike ride weekend I already reached my fundraising goal. I never even thought I would reach it! At that time, I started to get all my gear ready in the corner of my room, ready for the big event.
Reaching my fundraising goal was the first of many surprises this ride was to teach me. This experience taught me to never stay in my comfort zone and to try new and different things. It’s the quickest way to grow, become more aware, and a well-adjusted person.
Before I knew it, Friday September 2nd had arrived. I left for the ride to Isabella Freedman in a carpool with people I’ve never met before that lived in the same beautiful city I did- Boston.
When I got to Isabella Freedman in Falls Village, CT, it reminded me of the summer camp I went to in middle school. It is definitely comforting.
The grounds are beautiful. The Hazon Shabbat retreat offered yoga sessions, lectures, swimming in the lake, milking goats at seven in the morning, and of course farm to table meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After arriving everyone started going to sessions and since I only knew Lisa and the people I recently drove up with, I again wanted to do things I’ve never done before. I went to a yoga session having no idea what to expect and almost fell asleep on the floor it was so relaxing!
I would be lying if I said it was easy, but I can honestly say it was the most gratify thing I’ve ever done. It’s not a race about competing. It’s setting personal goals for yourself, fundraising for local Jewish farming programs like Ganei Beantown or Adamah, meeting new friends in the Jewish community, and, above everything else, being healthy and happy.
For me, the most refreshing thing about this special event was watching people set goals and achieve them on the bike ride. Being a part of this is now something I look forward to in the coming years as well. To support first time riders like I was, and to see the huge smiles on people’s faces when they set their new personal best.