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“One Small Sheet of Paper”

09/18/2019 04:25:54 PM


I had just sat down to write this blog entry when Sammy called me from school.  He wanted to get some information about the upcoming High Holy Days at Shma Koleinu, as he had just shared with his teacher, why she and her family needed to try us out!  Now, I don’t know about you but to me, this is the equivalent (not to be morose) of hearing one’s own eulogy! There are very few people whose opinions matter to me more than “my three people” (Natalie, Abraham and Sammy).  Yes, I care about what farther flung relatives think and of course, what you think. But there are degrees – there are limits in how far we ought to go for feedback on ourselves.

I’ve always loved Brene Brown’s take on this:

“I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter. To be on that list, you have to love me for my strengths and struggles. You have to know that I’m trying to be Wholehearted, but I still cuss too much, flip people off under the steering wheel, and have both Lawrence Welk and Metallica on my iPod.” Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead"

So to get to hear that my son was recommending me and our Shma Koleinu services and the kinds of opportunities we offer, fills me up with a special kind of pride.  I know that I do (and have done) plenty (but not on purpose) to embarrass my children (and maybe sometimes my wife)…(Ok, definitely sometimes my wife)….There are people who MATTER more to us than others – it’s just the nature of being human.  And division and separation are important in the context of understanding the essence of what it means to be human. Hamavdil ben kodesh l’chol – the distinction between the holy and the everyday – between the closest and the close-ish and the close and the less than close – not every person can be our best friend, not every date can be our life partner, not every moment can be the BEST MOMENT THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED (unless you’re a teenager, for whom it’s either THE BEST MOMENT IN LIFE or the worst point of existence that ever has had to be endured).  

Life’s meaning is drawn from these acts of distinction and uniqueness.  While not every person we encounter has an opinion that we must hearken to and allow to sink in, the story of their life, and the source of their point of view, if they so choose to offer it, is one worthy of being heard.  Does it have to land on our hearts? No. Does it have to fall upon our eardrums?  Yes, for sure. Navigating that distinction is the stuff of prayer and meditation.  

Not everyone’s opinion has to matter to you.  But some do. And that’s your job – to figure out whose matters.  Not because they always tell you that you’re awesome or that they always tell you’re terrible.  But because you know that they care about your soul, at least as much as they care about their opinion.  So when it lands, it CAN find its way to your heart.

Thu, June 4 2020 12 Sivan 5780