May I share a story by Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking.
One day I was walking down the street when I saw my friend George approaching. It was evident from his downtrodden look that he wasn’t overflowing with the ecstasy and exuberance of human existence, which is a way of saying he was dragging bottom.
Naturally, I asked him, “How are you, George?” While that was meant to be a routine inquiry, George took me very seriously, and for fifteen minutes he enlightened me on how bad he felt.
And the more he talked, the worse I felt. Finally, I said to him, “Well, George, I’m sorry to see you in such a depressed state. How did you get this way?”
That really set him off. “It’s my problems,” he said. “Problems – nothing but problems. I’m fed up with problems. If you could get rid of all my problems, I would contribute $5,000 to your favorite charity.”
Well now, I am never one to turn a deaf ear to such an offer, and so I meditated, ruminated and cogitated on the proposition and came up with an answer that I thought was pretty good. I said, “Yesterday I went to a place where thousands of people reside. As far as I could determine, not one of them has any problems. Would you like to go there?”
“When can we leave? That sounds like my kind of place,” answered George.
“If that’s the case, George,” I said, “I’ll be happy to take you tomorrow to Woodlawn Cemetery because it’s the only place where people don’t have any problems.”
This story I totally understand. We face a world in 2017 that makes us so filled with anxiety; a world that is spiraling out of control. Isis seems to be launching another act of terror; we fear that weapons are being brandished by crazy brainwashed people, and peace and tranquility are nowhere to be found.
The “Promised Land” seems out of reach. The sides are so polarized and we are doubtful that our political leaders can be trusted to act selflessly. It’s a me first narcissistic world devoid of kindness and integrity. Those who let us down blame others. These are the “giants of our despair.”
I say don’t be disillusioned by these so called giants. As a rabbi, I ponder the mistake of the tribes of Israel who turned away from their God to wander in the Sinai desert aimlessly for forty years. The biblical story instructs us to confront the madness and insanity of this world and realize, as a fellow rabbi put it’ that each of us has two lives.
Our second life begins when we realize that we only have one. So let us resist the impulse to hide under the covers. I believe strongly that we can’t allow ourselves to be so escapist that we do not fight for what we believe.
Let us not be defeated in 2017. Let us not be suffocated and overwhelmed by what confronts us.
Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a four time cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can follow him on FB.
Image courtesy of David Marcu.