There can be no dispute that we are living in a “very interesting” time. That old Chinese curse rings true. People are stressed out, tied to phones and electronics, and we seem overwhelmed by continuous cycles of news, real and fake, most of which is bad. And then, every once in a while, something happens to remind us that we also need to stop and celebrate when major transitions in life take place.
I had the occasion of attending one of these this past weekend. OK, full disclosure, it was the celebration of the formal retirement, after 40 years of my wife’s working in the field of public education. Her employers threw her a tribute celebration that encompassed all the communities of her life: life long friends, family and professional colleagues. What was powerful in this event was the recognition that education is, and continues to be, hard work, and that the accomplishments of teaching young people and peers over a lifetime deserves to be celebrated. As I was sitting in this very crowded room, it did dawn on me that all of need us to celebrate the work that we do and the time we are given. There are so many challenges before us in our lives, that we often even program out “down time”. Maybe we need to try and focus in on celebrating the moments in our lives that speak to our own growth and change as human beings. Many of us do this for the big things: graduations, new children, marriages, etc. But maybe, we also need to take some more time out of our rushing, busy, over-programmed lives to celebrate the tiny victories of our life. It may mean spending more time with our children or grand-children. It may mean celebrating a new friend or encounter with people we just have met. As we get a little older, as we become more aware of the quickening of time, it may be even more important to take some of that time to celebrate our “being”.
For many of us, we are entering a season of celebrations. Parties and holidays will crowd out a lot of time. Our society has programmed this time of year so they we “must” have fun and “must” spend money. And then comes January and February! Maybe it is worthwhile to take some time and look at those moments in life that we can celebrate and make them part of our daily, weekly,or monthly routine. Actually, our tradition gives us a hint as to the power of this idea. We are asked, every morning, as we wake up to just recite a simple blessing: “modeh ani”, I give thanks that I have awoken and that I have been given the gift of a new day, the gift of life. Shame on us if we fail to celebrate what may be the greatest miracle of all.
Rabbi Richard F Address