Guest contributor: Judy Hagshi
In the novel A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, Nya is a young Sudanese girl who must walk to the local pond to get water for her family twice a day – except that the local pond is actually two hours away. She makes the long two hour walk to the pond with empty jugs in the morning and then makes the two hour return trek with her heavy load arriving home in time for a sparse lunch. She repeats the whole four hour trip again in the afternoon just to be able to do her part to help sustain her family.
Thankfully, we do not live in Sudan and do not need to schlep water eight hours a day in order to sustain ourselves and our families. But, we do require other sustenance such as health and love and knowledge in order to succeed and flourish as a community and society. This can be exemplified by the short story titled A Short Walk to Knowledge by Judy Lynn Hagshi.
Judy is a young(ish) mother who walks her son Jeremy to school one morning. The school is JPPS and now that it has moved back into Cote Saint-Luc, the JPPS/Bialik campus is a mere ten minute walk from their home. Upon arrival, a celebration is going on: the school is welcoming a brand-new Sefer Torah which was written by hand over the past twelve months especially for the JPPS/Bialik synagogue. A meaningful and spiritual ceremony ensues ending with a school-wide hora and festive meal. Once the Mazal Tovs are given, Judy makes her way back home.
Later that afternoon, Judy makes the invigorating walk again to pick up young Jeremy from school. It’s a beautiful Spring day, her favourite time of the year, so she diverts her course and runs an errand at the local shmall. She arrives at the school and chats with some of the parents about the moving ceremony of the morning. She and Jeremy race back home.
A few hours later, Judy makes the stimulating walk again with her daughter Nathalie. Bialik is hosting The Invention Convention for grade 7 students. Nathalie and her friend Eva have designed The Lemonizer, a gadget to cut an apple while simultaneously sprinkling it with lemon juice. The lunch room is full of inventions and inquiry and knowledge exchange.
Judy’s husband Glenn and children Nicole and Jeremy also return to the school (Jeremy riding his bike this time) to check out The Invention Convention as well as JPPS’s Open House. Young parents thirsty for knowledge flock to “The School of Tomorrow”. JPPS has revamped the educational process through innovation and technology: gone is the teacher’s desk looming imposingly at the front of the room and is replaced with a cozy corner where teachers can spend one-on-one time with students. Each classroom also has standing and bicycle desks to keep children’s minds and bodies active. The school is abuzz with so much excitement and warmth that the Hebrew teachers break into song and dance as some parents come to check out the class.
As the day comes to an end and Judy returns home, she reflects on how much has occurred today: she has taken three short walks, each long on nachas and knowledge and menschlichkeit. What a fulfilling day!!!