Graduating and… how dishwashing changed my life

One of our participants is getting ready to graduate Free Spirit next week. He’s gone through tremendous change and growth. Recently he started talking about the one major thing he learned here. It first came up during a conversation with his mother – the value of generosity. He’s truly became generous in many ways: chores and projects he’s been working on for others, gestures of good will and true care toward peers and staff, and more. We love it, and can’t wait for him to come back as a mentor later in his life.

At the same time, another participant who is graduating, had just completed her project of choice at Free Spirit. She designed and created, with the help of the group, a challenge course for the Kibbutz kindergarteners. It was amazing to see the joy of creativity and then the pride of seeing the Kibbutz kids enjoy it so much.

For me, this brought up memories from when I was 14. My family seemed to be in a constant state of conflict. My sister and I constantly fought about everything and my parents tried to step in and got into their own fights. We fought about using each other’s stuff, about pushing the elevator button, about taking out the trash, and, of course, who’s turn it was to wash the dishes. I also remember that my teacher used to sit with me and try to help me find out why I was mad or upset all the time. She actually tried to convince me to start washing dishes daily even when it wasn’t my turn. She also talked about making it a positive and even fun experience, enjoying the warm sink water and finding curious new ways to organize the task. At first, the idea sounded utterly insane. Maybe it was the trust I put in her conviction that went beyond the trust I put into my own instincts, but I after a while I agreed to try and went “all out” into my dishwashing experiment. Three weeks later, after my parents stopped saying “I wonder how long this is going to last,” the entire house seemed to shift to a new order. My parents stopped asking me to do chores because it was obvious that I had already done enough. My sister didn’t like that I always had the upper hand, and so she started volunteering doing various chores herself. The entire family dynamic changed for the better and I felt incredibly empowered. For me it was the beginning of a lifelong journey…

Today I feel honored that someone else picked-up on that old “trick”. I wish them an amazing journey ahead!

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