What Are You Worth?
One of the first assignments I had as a Columbia journalism grad student was to write my own obituary. And though I suspected the demanding curriculum would be the death of me, I never imagined it would happen so quickly. But looking at my life backwards, as that assignment forced me to do, gave me an unusual purview. The obit, after all, is the summary of our life stories. What narrative did I want my existence to tell? What story would you want your obit to tell about you? Let me guess, you’d want to be remembered as a good person and in your defense you’d say, “I minded my own business and I never hurt anyone.” A lot of people minded their own business too while Jews where being carted off to gas chambers; a lot of people minded their own business while politicians stole the soul of this country; a lot of people mind their own business while homeless and hungry people “accessorize” their alleys, church steps and park benches. Yes we are all good people but “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” When I had interviewed comedian Jackie Mason and asked what he wanted his obit to say, he answered, “As still living.” I laughed at first but later thought there is indeed a way to live on posthumously and it’s by living a purposeful life wherein your actions and impact on others breathe on in perpetuity. The thing is we really wouldn’t ever need an obit to prove that we died if all along we had purposeful and unselfish lives to prove that we lived. And so when my journalism professor used to tell my overtired and overworked classmates and me, “You’ll sleep when you’re dead,” I knew he was right. There is much to do in this lifetime and the time is short. And so on this leisurely Sunday I urge us all not to relax too much. The reason we are born is to join God in perfecting this world and making it a better place--in Judaism it is called tikkun olam, i.e., fixing the world. In 2009, on an average day, nearly everyone age 15 and over (96 percent) spent 35.7 hours a week on leisure activities. With our social networking and i-application addictions I suspect the numbers are even much higher than that with respondents embarrassed and reluctant to tell the truth. We have really specialized in the art of relaxing, chilling out, escaping, “decompressing,” and closing off when there is a great wide world out there that is calling for us to engage and begging for our help. We may say what we are doing is harmless, but nothing in this life is neutral, it is either hurting or helping. What have you been busy with lately? We are such a lonely generation because all we care about is ourselves. We are proficient takers and such poor givers. What a beautiful example we are setting for our youth. In this week’s biblical portion it is written, “I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” It does not include a gray zone. Offering the Sabbath as the day of rest, God then gives His people a lot of things to do and rules to keep, including feeding the poor, sustaining the widow and the orphan, and rooting out corruption. He also decrees, “You shall not harden your heart or close your hand.” Yes we work hard the whole week, but to what end, only for plasma TV’s and other gadgets? Will watching reruns of Seinfeld and playing FarmVille on Facebook be our bequest to the world? Albert Einstein once said, “The value of a man resides in what he gives [to the world] and not in what he is capable of receiving.” By that standard, ask yourself what you are really worth. ************************* Sponsored by the Wordsmithy for all your editing needs. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information