Monday, March 18, 2013

A love letter to my new global family

Let me preface this with a bit of exposition: something I said on Twitter was, "it's a strange thing to feel your heart tugged across continents, but that's what I've felt this week." Over the course of the Three Dot Dash summit in downtown New York City, I had the chance to learn, eat, dance, cry, laugh, and fastwalk ;) with 29 amazing teens (and our incredible adult facilitators, summit leaders, and Global Teen Leader alumni).

Three Dot Dash (that's a V, for peace, in Morse code) is a weeklong program that brings in teen leaders from all around the world (everywhere from South America to Europe to Africa to Asia to here at home) for a summit dedicated to helping us tell our stories and ensuring that the message powerfully shared by the late poet and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek, that "peace is possible," is embodied through our lives and work. We were privileged enough to learn from Mattie's mom Jeni, aka "Mama Peace," whose persistence and quiet strength inspired us all.

So without further ado, here's my big post-summit thank you. I'm still reeling from the experience, but in the best way possible. I'm blogging this because I wanted everyone to see what can happen when we declare sincerely, "we are family."

Dear 3DD family,

Repeating the refrain of post-summit days: "I miss you guys."
"You guys" means moments as well as people. There are too many moments to count, but maybe one of the first was discovering the roof view with Sudarshan and Anjali, stepping closer perhaps than I've been for a while to the feeling of being on the top of the world. In the mist, the streamers on a fence below seemed to be figures writhing on the sidewalk. Standing on that roof I was eye-level with the stain-glass Jesus in the window of the church across the street, oddly appropriate considering a conversation we had in the freezing cold about religion.
Then came the news that our fellow GTLs--most of the rest of you--were waiting for us, and so came scrambling down ladders with the glee of dancing on the brink of troublemaking. (Yeah, that's what we were doing right before I apologized for going overboard on the "Dora the Explorin'" side.) How couldn't I miss Kim and her stern expression that left no room for error except in the most cleverly sneaky ways (wink wink. Just kidding.)

I miss the nights that followed, wandering arbitrarily around New York and coming back way too late for much-beleaguered Dana (I'm sorry for being such a crappy roommate!) to be awake. I miss conspiring with Jasel on fighting Ali for control of his phone, and the crazy high-pitched sound of Rameez getting tickled. I miss the sound of all of our laughter, standing in energizer circles, executing ill-planned dance moves. I miss Anjali being perhaps the best teacher of Hindi and Tamil the average white/Asian girl-who-sucks-at-languages has ever known; now every time I say "I can count to ten in Hindi!" (over the course of just a few days, more frequently than you might think) I do it with the bittersweetly nostalgic reminiscence of how I got there in the first place.

I miss the drowsy sincerity of our last night, sitting in a circle in the hangout suite on the 21st floor, and listening to the soothing sound of Gani's ukulele, Robert's improv singing, and all of us chanting chorus lines. I could go on and on and on--but those are just the nights.

Somewhere in a binder which (woe is me!) I lost at the summit venue, there are copious badly-written notes, some hurried poems in the margins, and an action plan which I filled out with the last-minute desperate passion of a girl who's waited till the last minute to determine which project she's actually going to talk about. I want to thank you all for making me feel courageous enough to float a project which I only started conceptualizing recently, and for teaching me a huge amount over the past week.

Indeed, when it came to peace, social media, photography, speaking, and interviewing, I learned a lot--but I also grew in a less pronounced area: humility. It may not be a definable lesson or a topic we covered in a clear-cut way, but having the chance to meet all of you--with your intense passions, mindblowing eloquence, Muslim Brother-from-the-Bronx or Malcolm X accents (Faisal and Sheila, respect), beautiful singing, kindness, inclusiveness, freakingly intimidating smartness--made me really truly see how un-special I am in the grand scheme of things, no matter how exaggerated a headline or how high someone's praise may be. And yet at the same time you embodied Jeni's message, that reaffirming "You matter."
Realizing that I matter not because of whatever sets me apart but rather because of what I share with you--the desire for just peace--was one of the most valuable things I walked away with.

Under my breath I sing "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" sometimes. Toward the end of the summit the prediction of nostalgia, the logical rationale that it's the only song I can mostly hit the right notes on, and some other feelings made me do that with increasing frequency. The lyrics--"Love of mine / Someday you will die / But I'll be close behind / To follow you into the dark"--capture, in a way, how I feel; because even though none of you, fellow GTLs, are dying, we have dispersed and I want to follow you. I'll admit that maybe I forgot the "it's nothing to cry about" line of the song the afternoon of our last day. Actually, as I was crossing the street with Dana back to the hotel I started straight-up bawling like I haven't done in public ever, but at least I was laughing uncontrollably too.

Adib, Alexia, Alhassan, Ali, Anjali, Anoop, Dana, Ellen, Faisal, Francis, Hector, Jack, Jake, Jasel, Karen, Khaoula, Morgan, Natalia, Natasha, Nick, Rameez, Saajan, Sheila, Sienna, Souhail, Sudarshan, Tharon, Victoria, Yash: thank you for making me feel countless emotions more powerfully than I have before. Sometimes I'm bad at being effusive out loud, but the following words are things I would say to your faces: at Three Dot Dash I got everything from my longest hug to the best of friends, and I only hope that in some small way I might have repaid you with a percentage of the happiness I felt last week.

Love you,




  1. Anonymous8:47 PM

    Honestly Adora you are the best person well "kid" to ever move me in such a way you did. I truthfully want to meet the amazing, fun, and exciting person I think you are.