Name: Yuval Baharav
From: LOS ALTOS HILLS, CALIFORNIA
thinks you’re pretty. Marry him. Actually, no, marry me. Come to my
birthday. It’s gonna be a party. They’ll be whores there. You’re
my wife. You have to do it. A woman’s place is underneath a man.
Any woman who doesn’t know that isn’t worth anything.”
am a community organizer. This is how I prepare: 365 days, 65 hour
weeks of volunteer work with at-risk youth in an Arab, Russian, and
Ethiopian immigrant slum, buried in prostitution and drugs. I live in
a moldy apartment in the same building as many of my teenagers. My
job is being a full-time role model who does what is right—not what
is easy—who shows that kindness is better than loneliness, caring
isn’t a weakness, and doing well in school isn’t embarrassing.
this neighborhood, 8,000 miles away from my Silicon Valley home, my
disadvantaged teenagers are neither definitions nor case studies.
They are in no way lost causes. They sense authenticity before I can
blink and bring me to down to earth like gravity. They are complex,
hardened, and lovable. Success here is getting them to open up, sober
up, connect, talk to their parents, and understand that choices and
words do matter.
After completing my transfer
units I thought I was prepared to study psychology, but how could I
have responded to, “I could kill you like that.” Now I say, “I
could hug you like this. Want me to?” with a smile. My teenagers
smile too. They sometimes even take me up on my offer.
have no way of knowing how my teenagers will turn out, or if I have
made a difference in their lives. All I can hope for is that I’ve
inspired them to be a bit more kind, to themselves and others. In
this year, in this neighborhood, I’m learning to straighten my
spine whenever I’m scared. I’ve learned we’re all searching for
home, to drop the anchors we carry. I’ve learned that home is the
people you are with, the people you fight for.