Finding the Beauty in New Places (And Old Ones, Too)

Some things the Deep South has made me thankful for recently

I, Ava Minerva Gadon, live in Mississippi now.

It’s hard to believe: I went from a beach town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; to a college campus in Washington, D.C.; to Jackson…Mississippi? I’m as surprised as you are, no matter how well I played it off to my friends.

“But, Mississippi?”

Yep. Mississippi.

“But…why?”

Listen, I’m out to find a Jewish cowboy, and I will lock. that. down!

That joke was usually enough to satisfy my sorority sisters and hometown friends, but there was so much more to this decision. For as long as I can remember, I have been blessed with opportunities to travel. I still remember when my mom introduced me to the idea that I had to be able to carry whatever I decided to pack (an important lesson to learn early, by the way, because eventually we all end up wrestling two suitcases and a duffel bag onto a train by ourselves while onlookers express pity and annoyance. That’s happened to everyone,right? Right?!). I treasure the things I’ve learned about different places, culture, environments, and myself. I have scrapbooks’ worth of photos and memories with strangers, friends, and family. So I thought, why not take a job where I’ll get to see a huge part of the country I’ve never seen before? It seemed like an amazing opportunity to meet different kinds of Jewish people, develop more professional skills, and build some more knowledge about the world.

Plot twist. Moving from New Jersey to Mississippi was completely unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I have met many different kinds of Jewish people, I’m developing my professional skills, and oh boy, have I been building knowledge about the world. Five months in and seven new states under my belt, here’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far: There is nothing so beautiful as something unexpected.

When I moved here, I didn’t know about the stray cotton that grew on the side of the road, or the sheer immensity of the sky. Little things that everyone who grew up in the South are used to are the things that now constantly shock me into gratitude. I am so lucky to experience watching a thunderstorm rolling over field after field, only to hit me and pass over in a matter of minutes when I am driving through the Mississippi Delta. I am so grateful to see Spanish moss draping from trees in Louisiana for the first time, or walk into a Buc-ee’s without any idea what to expect.

The best part? That skill doesn’t just apply to seeing or experiencing brand new things. When I head home now, this new vision and appreciation applies there, too. I’m able to see places I’ve known for two decades with new eyes, new perspective, and a whole lot of new gratitude.

As Jews, when something happens for the first time, we say a prayer called the Shehecheyanu. It thanks God for new experiences, and if I was present enough to observe it, I would be saying it every single day of this job. This adventure is so beautiful, and I’m thankful for it.

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to you and yours!

Discover More

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

Like any good Jew, I love Chinese food. There’s nothing better than feasting on salty, saucy takeout favorites like orange ...

Bazargan Recipe: Syrian Tabbouleh Salad for Summer

The flavors of this light salad develop more completely the longer it sits.

Time to Make Your Hanukkah Resolutions

Exploring the roots of the word, Hanukkah.

A Latin Twist on Hanukkah Latkes

A Hanukkah latke recipe inspired by Mexican and Jewish family traditions

A Spiel and a Yarn

How having an extended family of different faiths built my unique Jewish identity

Valuing Debate and Conversation

Jewish tradition, informed by the precedent of the Talmud, prefers to promote discussion rather than correctness.