Newness & Justice

It’s a new year.

It’s a new chance – it’s like waking up in the morning and deciding what you want the day to be.

Some days go like this: You wake up. You have a killer headache. You rub your eyes and heave a big sigh. You get out of bed and stumble to the kitchen. You trip on the cat who is always rubbing your legs on the stairs. You need coffee. Your coffee maker is busted. You get clothes on and go to Starbucks. The line is really long and you get really annoyed, more and more as you stand there. You honk at someone in traffic who cuts in front of you. You realize you forgot to feed the cat, but you can’t go back now – you have a meeting in an hour. You forgot your computer at home. You have to go back, you feed the cat, you get your computer, you’re going to be late for work because traffic, of course traffic. Your whole day is ruined and it’s not even 9 AM yet.

Some days go like this: You wake up. You have a killer headache. You rub your eyes, look around your room, see your cat. You pet your cat for a moment, and take a deep breath. You get out of bed, pick up the cat, and you head to the kitchen. You need coffee. Your coffee maker is busted. You get dressed, you feed the cat, and you head to Starbucks. You’re in line and you overhear the people in front of you talking about a movie they are going to after work. You send a text to your friend – you completely forgot that movie came out. Maybe you two could go. You get caught up in texting and the line is long but by the time you’re at the front, you’ve got plans. You get your coffee, and realize you forgot your computer. You drink your coffee, get your computer, and even though traffic’s bad you get to work with just a moment to spare. You think HA! Made it just under the wire! Your headache is abating – thanks caffeine! – and your whole day looks great and it’s not even 9 AM yet.

Rosh Hashanah gives us the chance to examine our lives and think about how we approach our days. We can make this personal choice to look at our lives and consider what we can do to make a positive change. It can be a simple matter of choosing to look at the good over the bad. It can be a matter of finding gratitude. It can be deeper than that. We can examine our lives and we can think about where we are falling short of what we want as our ideal. Our lives are not Pinterest-perfect. Our lives are messy and complex. Our lives are not lived in a spotlight – we do not show everyone what we are needing, what we are feeling, what we think.

On Rosh Hashanah, my family goes to the river to think about these things and to make plans for what we will do this coming year to make a difference in our own lives and in other people’s lives. To practice gratitude was my goal last year, and I feel that it has made a huge impact on my life. I look at my mornings and I thank God that I am alive and that I have a body that gets me where I’m going. Never mind chronic illness, I’m here. I have a brain. I am gifted this chance to help people and I’m going to take it. I made huge progress towards that goal, and I continue to make it something that sticks in my mind, helps me move forward. It’s become my life, living with thankfulness.

Sometimes I fall short, but one thing I learned this past year is that when I do, that is not a reason to give up. Just because I mess up one day, and I have a day where everything goes wrong, doesn’t mean I can give up on my goal. It doesn’t mean I’m doomed to fail. Like exercise – if I have a few days in a row where I don’t get out walking, I don’t do physical things because my body is crying when I try to walk, it can feel like I’m going to never be able to exercise again. It’s very easy to say to myself at that time, why should I bother? No matter what I do, I’m never going to get any better.

But it’s the wrong approach. The right approach is to look at the exercise and say, “It’s okay that I couldn’t make it those days. I’ll put my shoes on today.” It’s okay to have failed. It’s a learning experience, but more – it’s kind. I can be as kind to myself as I want to be to other people. Sometimes I don’t feel as though I am deserving of that sort of self-kindness. There’s a little critical voice that chirps in my ear and makes me feel less worthy. I’m getting better at telling that little voice to go away – I should extend to myself the same kindness I extend to others.

This year, I’m making mindfulness my goal. I’m going to not pay attention to anything electronic when there are people who need my attention. I’m going to set aside my phone and really concentrate on what people are saying. I’m not always so good at that – I’m a master of multitasking, but in multitasking, I miss a certain connection of eyes to eyes, hands to hands. I don’t want to have that barrier between me and things that need my attention. I’m going to see people as they are, and say I am here. I see you.

When I wake up in the morning, I want to look at the world as a new creation every day. I want to see the possibilities. The world is overwhelming, frightening – so many tragedies are going on every day. Refugees dying trying to find freedom, children starving in our communities, men being killed because of the color of their skin, women being sold into sexual slavery overseas – so many things. I want to wake up in the morning and look at the world as a new creation every day and say “Here I am.” And I want to listen. And I want to let listening be my watchword, and I want to help change things. I’m just one person. I can’t do so much. But I can do everything I can do, and I can hear what people say. When we’ve heard what people say, we can act. When we act, there is justice.

Healing the world happens one story at a time. If I listen, if I teach my children to listen, if we all wake up to the world with all its newness and history, if we see its heartbreak and simple beauties, if we hear the screaming and the laughter, then the whole world will begin to wake up and to decide that this is the time we say enough – we are menders. We are tailors and writers, architects. We want to build. We want to fix. We want to repair. Enough with the destruction already. We want tzedek. Tzedek, tzedek tirof. “Justice, justice, you shall pursue.”

Rosh Hashanah – waking up to decide what we want the day to be. Mindfulness, gratitude. Justice. Please let it be so.

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