To the person who stole my wallet yesterday while on the subway in Mexico City with my fiance, I’m sorry. I don’t know why you felt the need to reach into my pocket as the crowd shoved its way into the train car and take what was not yours, but I pray there was a good reason–perhaps your kids are starving and you can’t find a job, perhaps a loved one is sick, perhaps you never learned the difference between right and wrong.
For each of these things, you cannot be blamed, and I am sorry.
When I began this journey, I promised I would offer no vindication, and to this I feel I remained true. I stripped aside the commentary and let it fall out as I remembered it–sometimes building beautifully harrowing images, other times feeling I fell short in capturing the turmoil I truly felt. But I did my best, and I’m thankful I made it this far.
But there are still more sides to this story, some that slip outside the narrow keyhole through which I looked back this past week, and these stories need to be shared.
Yesterday I began sharing the thirteen things I learned in 2013–a look at thankfulness, thinking, and things, with the great revelation that things don’t matter. Today I pick up the narrative once more for the next five lessons on our syllabus.
The first time it happened I was standing in a shack raising money for the homeless. The two walked up to me–a man and a woman, maybe my age, smiling, too exuberant–and with their eyes attached longingly to mine, they introduced themselves and asked, “Can we pray for you?”
I’ll admit: I was taken aback. All my life the idea of “praying for others” was an insult to their identity and an affirmation of the prayer-maker’s superiority: “You’re Jewish? I’ll pray for you. You’re gay? I’ll pray for you. You’re a sinner. I’ll pray for you.”
Last night Rosh HaShanah began, the start of the Jewish year 5774. For most this meant traveling to services, eating apples and honey (for a sweet and prosperous new year), and hearing the shofar–a ram’s horn–blown. For me it meant none of the above.
I could easily steer this conversation in about five directions, depending on how I choose my next few words, and since each road isn’t incredibly long and all equally relevant, my task now is to touch each of them in turn.
We hear stories of privilege and think of old white men in suits sipping on drinks at the bar in their kitchen–but it looks like a real bar, it’s just that big. We think of privilege and we think of CEOs and politicians, those the media has deemed corrupt–might as well toss in a few celebrities, just for for kicks. We say the word privilege and the first thing inevitably to cross our minds is this three-word phrase.
Our service project began on March 4–a Monday that should be the role model for all Mondays: We were excited, put in a great effort, and ended eager for the rest of the week. It became the cornerstone of our experience–the story’s climax, the man’s epiphany.
Today marks a special anniversary: Some ten or so years ago I met one of my most influential and inspiring friends–and though we may live thousands of miles apart, my heart is closer to hers than to most people I know. It seems like we’ve been through it all together, the highs, the lows–the times we’ve loved each other, the times we’ve hated each other, the many times in between. Of all the people I know, she is the strongest, most persevering, most courageous–and her friendship means the world to me.
Mostly related by email, our time together is full of thoughtful conversations and intense reflections–analyses of the goings-on of life, in-depth discussions on topics as numerous as the stars. The birth of our friendship was the birth of a new soul, enjoined to the physical world not by blood or bone, but by the wires and Internet waves that have tied us together for so many impossibly wondrous years.
Today marks the birth of a new relationship–a reflexive relation I hope will provide as much for this blog as her friendship has provided me.
I read this week’s teaching for the first time more than a month ago–and I knew I’d loathe the moment I got to it. When the week opened at a conference in DC and continued with a maddening rush to pack my room and move on campus, procrastination came easily.
But as Hillel might remind us, “If not know, when?”
So anxiously I plow forward. One last teaching to end them all.
Despite all the progress I’m making on my goals, lately I’ve felt apathetic and angry. I have little more than a month left of my summer, and it feels like all I’m doing right now is menial and meaningless. I know that isn’t true, and if I weren’t being so moody I’d be exceptionally proud of my accomplishments this last month, but in the meantime, I’m just tired and cranky.
But the important part is that I don’t give up. It’s been about a month since I last evaluated my goals, and it’s time I do so again to get things moving once more. I’m ready when you are.