Every year, just at this time of year, I treasure an opportunity to listen to the speeches of Hebrew school graduates as part of a formal ceremony and religious service. We get past the thank yous to clergy and teachers, we await the expression of gratitude to parents and siblings, we hear the remarks on how trying it can be as a teenager in (fill in current year here).
And then the sentence happens. "Whenever I came here, I felt I was in a safe place and could be myself."
What a wonderful gift. What an exceptional memory.
Although this idea has been said in a variety of ways and has been said over a variety of years, the core never changes — a recognition that some of us have trouble being ourselves 24/7, and are lucky enough to have had a special space where acceptance and tolerance are key.
Religious institutions do not have a corner on this market but rather there are other places that could give us the freedom to feel comfortably assured of ourselves. Home. School. Community. Country. Yet we also know that these societies are sometimes made up of imperfect humans who could be judgmental, biased, or lacking inclusiveness. The difference is in hope and action.
"Whenever I came here, I felt I was in a safe place and could be myself." Let's not just celebrate this situation but do it the honor of replicating it. If you know what safe feels like, bring it to every corner of the world you touch. Remind yourself that phrases like "we share more in common than not" aren't just words in the mouth but feelings of the heart. Recognize we are not alone in this quest for a safe place but can become its hosts as much as its guests.
And by building a safe place wherever you roam we all can be who we really are — and are ultimately meant to be.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.