Tuesday, January 01, 2013

What Difference Do You Make?


I’m writing this on Christmas morning, shortly after sunrise. I’m on my way to Nassau and then on to Paradise Island and the Sivananda Ashram where I will be teaching for the week. As always I pick up a copy of USA Today.

The best article in the paper is about David Menasche, a forty-year old high school English teacher dying of brain cancer. David is travelling around the US visiting past students and asking them if he, David, made a difference in their lives. Wow.

My mind immediately ticked off a list of teachers, now deceased, who have made a difference in my life: Peter Santos and Michael Gelinas, the two high school social studies teachers who introduced me to Hinduism and Buddhism. Miss Marshal, my junior high school history teacher with whom I stayed friends until the end of her very long life. Dr. Terri Havens, my first guru, who introduced me the Mother and Her many guises. Dr. Taitetsu Unno, my Buddhist Studies professor at Smith College who taught me too sit “like a mountain.” Sasaki Roshi who challenged me to be a “Zen Rabbi.” And Dr. Ellis Rivkin and Bonia Shur, two professors at Hebrew Union College, who taught me how to read Judaism for its archetypal wisdom, and how make it come alive by letting that wisdom speak through me, respectively. Reb Zalman Schachter–Shalomi who showed me that as wide my thoughts roamed, Judaism could always accommodate me, and he would always love me.

Not a long list, granted. And there may be others whose names I have forgotten at the moment. But without these people I wouldn’t be who I am.

I have reached thousands of people both in person and through my books, and while I am not aware of any terminal illness, Mr. Menasche’s question remains: did I make a difference?

As we enter the new year, I find this a question worth asking. May you live the new year so that when you die you know you have made a difference. For the better, of course. 

11 comments:

Lynne said...

I can name a few people in Grand Haven, Michigan who I think would say, "You Have Made a Difference in My Life!"

However, I can't speak for them, only that they introduced me to your writing, they met you, heard you . . . and now I follow along with you and you make a difference in my life.

Continue to make a difference . . .

Maggid said...

Zalman gave our class a couple of talks over the phone. His words inspired me onward - found a great home-base for me - and yes, Judaism accommodates every place my thinking has taken me . . .

One teacher, after several years, (and several thousand $$$) called and trashed my world (momentarily) - by saying he did not know me - which ultimately gave me the perfect community - and a life path really worth investing in . . .it was A Backdoor to Wonderful.

AND - Both Those teachers led me to YOU - (I color the thought of YOU as Awesome.)

AND - One More. A teacher, Mrs. Cole - who taught me I could do anything i chose - and I could have the consequences -

Happy, Prosperous, Healthy, Inspired, Year - filled with Whatever You Choose.

Thank you for sharing with me. Thank you for Teaching.
-g-

andrea perez said...

I don't know how old you are but I am now 51. I've been a teacher for the last 26 years. I often wonder if I made a difference myself.
I know it helps to know you haven't wasted your time and that you personally made a difference.
So, this being the new years for the world anyway, not us Jews, let me say thank you.
1. You've made me think
2. I've read at least 4 of your books and can't tell you how often I've wanted to share your translation of both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes with numerous people. So well thought out. So humble and compassionate.
3. Your prayers which are included within the Reconstructionist Prayer books are truly contemplative. What's more, they help ground me.
4. But most important, I've taken you Omer study and have written things myself.
Thank you for the journey.
You've made a difference.
Andrea

Rabbi Rami said...

Thank you all for the kind words. I wasn't trolling for kudos, but they are nice to hear in any case. As for how old I am, the answer is 61 and 8 months.

Fraser said...

Your own loving openness to all faith traditions somehow allows others to live as if it is ok as well. You open up a space for freedom for me. The other side of this is that now we can feel ok about ourselves spiritually too. Everyone belongs...yay! love Fraser

Erick Reynolds said...

I have come to accept the reality of the "butterfly principle" in that one makes a difference every moment. A simple smile to or from a passing stranger makes a difference with incalculable magnitude. Go forth with the confidence that you will always make a difference and be mindful of what kind of difference you want to make. May it always be a positive one.

Erick Reynolds said...
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Tammie Fowles said...

So pleased that I came upon your blog, it's delightful and wise...
Thank you. Just what I need - delight and wisdom :)

Tammie Fowles said...

So pleased that I came upon your blog, it's delightful and wise...
Thank you. Just what I need - delight and wisdom :)

Karen said...

Even though you may not see this because this blog is a couple of weeks old, I want to tell you that you have made a difference for me.

My brain isn't in a poetic frame of mind today to write some beautiful platitudes about how you've made a difference for me, but just letting you know is all that matters, I think.

Thank you for being you!

great grandmother's shopping list said...
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