For too many people this has been an awful time. There are those who have lost their lives, left relatives behind who are restricted from mourning properly, and in some cases also stricken with the Coronavirus. And for those who are sick or recovering, although your recovery is something to be thankful for, I recognize, to the best of my ability, your ordeal as a very serious one and one not to be taken lightly.
But then there are those who just don’t realize how lucky they really are. Having your life turned upside down, economic uncertainty, and having to stay mostly at home, is not something to celebrate, but not realizing the blessings you have is a failing that needs to be addressed. Not merely for the impact on one’s own life, but for the impact on society as a whole.
A few weeks back I wrote a piece about the lessons we can learn from Holocaust survivors entitled, During the Coronavirus crisis, the lives of Holocaust survivors can offer us some much needed perspective. In that piece I spoke about my late parents, who not only survived the Nazi occupation of Holland, they went on to live happy and productive lives. As I listen to, or read about some people who are seeing being stuck at home as the worst thing that ever happened, I feel compelled to virtually grab them and shake them. I get it. You have cabin fever. You’re bored. Or your kids are driving you nuts. And yes, not knowing what the future holds for you financially is very disconcerting. Believe me I know. But what all those things should tell you is that if you are blessed with health, you feel well enough to feel boredom rather than illness. If you have cabin fever you should acknowledge that you have a roof over your head. If your kids are driving you nuts you have a family that gives you purpose and an opportunity to get closer to them. And if you are worried about how you are going to manage financially in the future, although I recognize the seriousness of the issue and I say again that I really do understand, it implies that you have a future to work with, albeit one with challenges.
The teaching from the Jewish Oral Law, the Mishna, that I consider to be the foundation of my own personal philosophy towards life, is a teaching I encourage everyone to pay attention to at this time, regardless of your belief in God or any subsequent religion. It is the teaching from Ethics of our Fathers that states, “Who is the wealthy one? The one who is happy with his portion.” An easy concept to adapt when things are going your way, but to really internalize this idea means to see and appreciate what you have even when times are rough. And although it’s been common to compare our current situation to times in the past when evil rulers or empires restricted our freedoms, what we are experiencing today is very different. Being encouraged or even mandated to take precautions for the safety and well-being of ourselves and those around us is by no means comparable to slavery and persecution. A fact we really need to understand.
There certainly is a health issue to be cognizant of and an illness to fear. But at the same time, if we have food in our home, a roof over our head, and the physical strength to go on, should we really be complaining? This does not mean we do not feel terrible sadness for the victims and closest people to those who have been lost. But it does mean that all of us need to aspire to reach a strength of character in which we acknowledge life’s blessings. And yes, not only will everyone around us be better off if we do, but so will we. If you wake up every day with the conviction to be happy with your portion, then most days you will wake up happy. It is hard to imagine anyone having a problem with that recommendation. Especially now.
Happy holidays to anyone celebrating and wishing strength and happiness to everyone in need.
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