The sweetest thing about holidays, to me, is that they give us chances to reflect. I love that the Jewish High Holy days, usually in September, are about spending time thinking about the past year and how we conducted our lives. We are commanded to right wrongs, to ask for forgiveness from those we've hurt, and to consider how we can live the next year more faithfully.
What kind of faith we decide to follow, and how we carry that out can continue in our celebration of Thanksgiving. Being grateful at High Holy Days for another year (being written in the book of Life) carries over into the feast we enjoy with friends and family, and we look for the Blessings.
To me this is how we walk in Grace. Stumbling through life, or skating on the surfaces is easy, but it misses so much. When we actively look for the good things, what has gone right with our day, or our lives, we have a chance to be grateful for the small and big stuff.
Everyday life has so many irritating and frustrating events, stuff of what could be a downward spiral. We pay bills and notice how we have less money in the bank, instead of being glad we can work, have the funds to pay for our debts, and give back to the world.
Next month comes another favorite holiday - the winter season of Light. Channuka, Christmas, Winter Solstice. All these give us a chance to actively help heal the world. We can concentrate on what we get, or we can focus on giving. I'm pretty sure the rituals began with giving because there, in the midst of the darkest days of the year, in the cold and unforgiving world, we need to remember that Spring will come, and that redemption is with us always.
Many faiths believe that redemption comes thru the work we do to heal the world. In Judasim there are two twin notions, tzedakah and tikkun olam. I see tzedakah as the concrete expression of gratitude, giving to the poor, working in the soup kitchen, sponsoring a family for Christmas (yes, Jews routinely do this every year :)
Tikkun olam, on the other hand, is the notion of healing the world, a mandate by G-d who chose us all as partners in creation. We decide if we will help in those intangible ways when we consider tikkun olam. Listening to a troubled child, visiting a sick friend, emailing someone who may be lonely or frightened is tikkun olam. So is comforting the bereaved, and praying for the hurts that come from the disasters of life.
Somehow I find that faith is how I hold onto the joy. The broken-ness of the world is not less, but my ability to embrace it, if I hold strong to my faith in the lovingkindess of a power greater than me, greater than all the pain and suffering - this gets me by. And more, it lets me celebrate all the transcendent beauty, a patch of sunshine, a smile from a stranger because he is walking a puppy on the sidewalk, the memory of a child held in complete love.
Walking in Grace is also about surrender. I can't make it all better, but I can extend myself to the heart of the matter, to soothe my own pain and understand some of what others are going thru. Sometimes just not feeling so alone is a healing gesture, to let someone know you are there, or have been there and came thru the dark times, in spite of how bad it was. There is grace when we surrender to how hard life can be.
Ultimately I see the past of my life, littered with mistakes and triumphs, and likewise the lives of others, as valuable for the journey we take. If I find joy, it's because I've fought for it.
Look at all the good that comes when we tenaciously grip our right to happiness, and to hope, pushing forward to let go of what doesn't work in our lives, staying committed to finding our truths, to growing in the right direction.
One huge benefit of all this work is our children are graced. They see our struggles and, as always, are watching, learning. If we let them in on our joys and sorrows, our mistakes and lessons, then they truly get what we've always wanted for them - more.
More what? Certainly not more things. In fact I hope my kids learn to be content (and joyful) with LESS. Letting go of the material will free them for lives of true freedom, like lovely monks who journey with only their bowls. No wonder we breathe deeply in the presence of those holy people who have set aside worldly ideas of success. Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama, Jesus, Gandhi, Abraham and Sarah. They all surrendered, let go, worked to heal the world, found joy and, deeply grateful, walked in faith and grace.
I hope to see my kids, and all the children I love, gain more understanding of how to create a life well lived. How to walk in compassion and deep gratitude. How to balance taking care of themselves with helping to heal the world. I hope they fight for happiness and joy. I hope they grow until the last breath they draw, touching the Infinite, and know there is always more for all of us.
Blessings on you all this day, and every day. May our lives be for a blessing.
3 days ago