DEAR EVAN HANSEN "You Will Be Found" Essay Challenge Winner for North Texas
In early 2021, DEAR EVAN HANSEN partnering with Gotham Writers' Workshop and the Broadway Education Alliance invited 11th-grade and 12th-grade students across the country to write a college-application style essay that described how they channeled the theme of "You Will Be Found" to ensure those around them were a little less alone over the last year, or, alternatively, a moment where they found comfort in connection.
Nearly 4,000 high school students across America wrote about the impactful ways they stayed connected with others over the last year. Out of the 172 entries from the North Texas region that were part of the national contest, Josh Rubel of Greenhill School in Addison was announced as the North Texas Regional Winner.
Click the video below to hear Josh read his winning essay.
Dear Josh Rubel,
THIS IS GONNA BE A GOOD DAY, AND HERE'S WHY.
Today marks the first anniversary of a major event happening "pandemic-style" - my family held our seder tonight without the comfort of any extended friends or family, instead of a bustling atmosphere in our house where plates clatter, gossip spreads, and candles burn, only the sounds of the fly on the ceiling and our dog barking were heard in between the word "Why is this night different from all other nights?" While this night was different as we only ate unleavened bread and sat in chairs reclining, we also felt much more alone. The bitter herbs stung more, the matzah tasted even more like cardboard than usual, and the salt water burned my mouth as the parsley slid down my throat. However, despite all the negatives surrounding our annual meal, my parents, brothers, and I celebrated the exodus from Egypt just like we had for more than a decade.
AND YOU WANT TO BELIEVE IT'S TRUE.
As the youngest child in my family, I ask the "Four Questions" recited at every seder meal: 1. On all other nights, we eat chametz (leavened foods) and matzah. Why on this night, only matzah? 2. On all other nights, we eat all vegetables. Why, on this night, maror (bitter herbs)? 3. On all other nights, we don't dip even once. Why on this night do we dip twice? 4. On all other nights, we eat either sitting upright or reclining. Why on this night do we all recline?
SO I WAIT AROUND FOR AN ANSWER TO APPEAR.
Surprisingly, even amidst the loneliness of the pandemic, the answers start to appear. This specifice night of Passover stands out despite the pandemic; my family holds the same exact service year after year, regardless of the present situation. We feel connected not only to each other but also to millions of other Jews in the diaspora and even those who have come before us (in fact, the Haggedah my family uses was writtend by Elie Wiesel, a testament to the will and resilience needed in the face of adversity).
FEELS LIKE WE COULD GO ON FOR FOREVER THIS WAY, THIS WAY.
The pandemic has stretched out for what seems like an eternity at this point, and later on in the seder, we sing a song called Dayenu, which means "It would have been enough." The lyrics praise God for performing miracles for the Jewish people during the exodus, and even if He had only performed one of the miracles for our people, it still would have been enough. Perhaps the miracle we received this year was the oppportunity to hold a seder for our family - as if lamb's blood smeared on the door protected our house from the COVID Angel of Death, at least for the night. My family felt bonded together despite our collective solitude.
WELL, LET THAT LONELY FEELING WASH AWAY.
I've found comfort this year in the connection with people that have stayed close to me despite the separation brought upon everyone because of the pandemic, and I, Josh Ruble, realize that I was never really alone. I felt a deep comfort in my connections with both my faith and family.
BECAUSE TODAY, AT LEAST YOUR'RE YOU, AND THAT'S ENOUGH.