Walking a mile in their shoes

For the past 3 years when 9/11 comes around.  I think about how a 12 yr old taught me a new way to hold pain and hope simultaneously.  In September of 2009, I had the opportunity to help a student with his mitzvah.  Here is his description of his project:

I am a twelve-year-old student training for my Bar Mitzvah. During the process, I am required to complete a “Mitzvah Project” where I must help others through charity, community service, etc.
For my project, I am educating a group of twenty to thirty students about the Holocaust, one of the most important events in not only Jewish history, but in everybody’s modern history. The students will review one or more interviews we have conducted with Holocaust survivors. The students will
take what they have learned and decorate a pair of shoes based on their experiences. Then the students will walk a one-mile silent meditation, after which, we will write a poem, story, or documentary of what we have learned.

He completed the interviews, decorated his shoes, and did a walking meditation, then he wrote a poem. There was so much to learn from him in every part of this project. I was particularly inspired by the way he decorated his shoes. One shoe represented the loss, grief, and darkness. One shoe represented the hope, perseverance, and light. It was transformational to watch him walk away and alternate his steps in the two shoes. Not only was he connecting to those who were lost and those who endured, he also deeply connected with the power that heals with love and light and the people who opened their heart to it even in the darkest of hours.

This is extremely difficult work, but I believe that in order to truly move forward, we need to be able to comfortably walk with the grounding of both suffering and reconciliation. To me, there is nothing more inspiring than watching someone so young, so aware, and so capable of facing this task.