Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A letter from my daughter

With kids away at camp, you find yourself starting out by hoping to receive word from them - any word - just a little letter to reassure you that they're still in one piece. Once you get that first letter and you know they're breathing, you realize that you really want and need more - a sign that they're happy and loving camp. I remind my children of these needs every summer before they head off to sleepaway camp but as soon as they get there, they get involved in countless activities and my needs fade. This is a good thing and I know that it's a good thing. I also know that kids live in the moment so it's likely that during the course of any given summer, at least one of our daughters will head back to her bunk and write at that one moment when she's feeling a little tired, disconnected and homesick. At the other end, we receive that letter, forget what we know to be true or likely and panic. When this happens, you could head for the jellybeans, you could call the camp to find out what's going on or you could take a deep breath and give the experience the same chance you're asking of your child. We've certainly received those letters over the years and I've eaten jellybeans by the boatload but our daughters insist that they love camp and would never dream of giving it up.

The thing about letters is that you never know what you're going to get. This summer, we've received several letters from one of our daughters that have focused on some of her favorite experiences so far and have been beautifully introspective. She has been exposed to remarkable people and stories this summer and, as a result, has let us know that she is feeling very connected to our religion and her faith. Her letters have been incredibly vivid and meaningful. Through it all, the message that's come home is one of pure joy and it is abundantly clear that this child is having the greatest summer of her life. The unexpected can be a gift!

As our children discover who they are and what our religion and culture mean to them, I can't help but hope that in the course of their lives they will be open to learning about other religions, traditions and culture. I hope that much of their exposure to the rich fabric of diversity in the world will come from hands on experience but, for me, there's great comfort in the fact that they can experience so much from books as well. Take, for example, Reza  Jalali's Moon Watchers: Shirin's Ramadan Miracle, illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien. This story of  Shirin, a young Muslim girl, and her family at Ramadan weaves together the traditional observance and meaning of the holiday with a lively drama of sibling rivalry. I enjoyed reading about the holiday and the traditions and I loved the evolving story of the relationship between Shirin and her brother Ali.

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