“It’s like there are two totally different sides of you.”
That’s what my friend commented immediately following a gala I co-chaired in my role as an Advisory Board Member for Catholic Charities Los Angeles- San Pedro region. Standing there in the hallway watching guests leave the dining hall to pick up their silent auction items I begrudgingly agreed.
This was my work as a good Catholic. But was I also doing enough charity work with a religious organization as a good Jew?
No. Because I’m not Jewish- I’m Catholic and somehow those lines seem to still blur no matter how hard I try to keep them clearly defined.
And that’s ok. Not everything needs to be neatly labeled as black and white. It’s acceptable to live somewhere in the shades of gray when I’m more one or the other.
Take my IRL friend and fellow blogger John Fitzsimons for example. He’s a Catholic high school educator. He also does work with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Holy Land Democracy Project described below.
The Holy Land Democracy Project brings Israel education to charter, private and religious schools throughout Southern and Central California.
I love that. John has managed to bridge two worlds without feeling caught in the middle.
I wish I could do that.
Maybe I can. Maybe it isn’t about trying to balance both sides all the time. Maybe balance is impossible. Feeling like I have to do “both of everything” is overwhelming. Just wondering if I’ve done too many Catholic activities in comparison with Jewish related activities is exhausting. Dual holidays, dual traditions, dual everything- is the burden of the interfaith child.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the unique background from which I come but constantly worrying about whether one side is going to be offended because I chose to skip a holiday is no way to live. You can’t please the world and someone (on either side) is always bound to be offended or render a guilt trip so good that it’ll leave your head spinning.
So I’m choosing a new approach. I’m proud to announce that I’ll be volunteering and supporting the efforts of UrbanTxT. Rather than trying to balance both sides of an impossible dual conundrum- I’m choosing to support an organization that has focused on something else I know a little bit about: growing up as a minority in an at-risk youth population.
Like the kids at UrbanTxt who are growing up in South LA, I grew up not far away in Paramount/North Long Beach and the struggles were the same. Too many friends chose gangs as their futures. Too many stayed in a cycle of poverty. Too many saw incarceration for a lifestyle that sucked the potential from your very soul and too many saw first hand what it was like to bury a friend, family member or loved one to the violence of the streets.
Also like these kids, I now live in a start up/ tech world too. I recently joined the Meddle team as VP of Marketing and look forward to hopefully inspiring these youths as a woman and as a Latina. Just because you come from a particular place- doesn’t mean it has to define your future.
I quietly announced a few weeks ago that October would be my last month after 3 years of dedicated service to the board. I had the unique fortune of being the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. As I stood side by side with Bishop Solis closing the evening, I fought back a few tears. In choosing to leave perhaps I was in fact coming home again to a purpose driven by a desire to help others and not out of obligation. In fact, I was brought home to a purpose that was both Catholic and Jewish in serving our youth- the promise of our futures. Tzedakah may be a Hebrew word but its actions cross languages, religions, and cultures.
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
― Mother Teresa