One of my clearest childhood memories is walking home from school one day when I was in the fourth grade. We were lucky to live one house away from the school grounds, so my walk consisted of about a half block – past the playground and its huge black-top, then past the little preschool building, then past our neighbor’s house with the huge lions guarding their front door that I loved to ride. And then I was home.
But on this day I remember so well, the walk took forever. It was torrentially pouring and lightening and thundering (my mom reads this blog, so feel free to berate her for not helping me get home safely). It also happened to be Passover. And I was convinced that this rain storm I could hardly see through was one of the plagues.
I knew then how tough it was to be a chosen people.
Twenty-six years and Seders later, I sat down last night with my family and friends on another rainy night to celebrate rebirth and spring (did you know that while Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the new year, Passover is actually the anniversary of creation? I just found that out and it makes perfect sense, though I’ve still got my money on evolution) and to remember the hardships of slavery my ancestors endured in Egypt.
The leader of our Seder asked the children (ages 3 – 16) if they thought slavery was a thing of the past or if they thought it still existed. Of course they thought it was ancient history and made cracks about being enslaved by their parents, they live privileged lives on a picture perfect island. The adults all acknowledged that slavery still existed, but we were stunned by what she told us next.
According to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (and many other sources I confirmed with online):
Slavery still exists today. Whether it is called human trafficking, bonded labor, forced labor, or sex trafficking, it is present worldwide, including within the United States and, increasingly, in your local community.
An estimated 12 – 27 million people are caught in one or another form of slavery. Between 600,000 and 800,000 are trafficked internationally, with as many as 17,500 people trafficked into the United States. Nearly three out of every four victims are women. Half of modern-day slaves are children.
Passover has always been my favorite holiday – and not just for the wine and the macaroons and the leg of lamb. It’s a holiday based on telling stories and asking questions; in effect, reviewing the past and wondering in the present how we can make the future better. And every year, every single year, I learn something new and walk away more aware, more ready…
Everything is relative, you know. Even slavery. Many of us here are slaves to our work, to our creative minds, to our relationships, to our writing, to our paychecks, to our government, to our HMOs. But is a young girl held against her will and made to do vile things and not fed more than a crust of bread worse off than me as I chain myself to contracts and my distracted mind that just can’t focus some days. Hell yes.
And maybe that realization can help me free myself…to do more, be more, give more, produce more, act more, live more. Just more.
Image credit: goto10