I have a quote on my fridge. Written on what is now an old, stained sticky note, it has been there for years. I heard it during a podcast, scribbled it down and impulsively stuck it up. I have looked at these words countless times over the years, taking direction from them. The quote, by poet and author Mark Nepo, says, “In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
To be honest, I always viewed Nepo’s words with a critical mind. “Be a better listener, be a better person,” I would tell myself. But now, with practice, I see these words with greater comfort. They are a road map to a fulfilling life. When you take the time to be present, to drop pre-conceived ideas and be patient with those around you, you find yourself surrounded by love. I have found this also to be true for all the political and emotional strife present in our society. Rather than digesting the turmoil, I can see that it needs to be held softly, because underneath the surface is pain. This is life changing. Is this easy to do? No. It takes prayer, patience and practice.
During this month of Elul and time of self-reflection, I know that Nepo was also speaking about inward listening. Be it a critical voice or a voice of comfort, hold your gaze inward, softly, and be willing to really hear, for this is where God lives in each of us.
As the Federation moves toward the beginning of the annual Campaign, I hope that each of you will take the time to reflect on what this community means to you. Where would we be without a Jewish community? Right now, we are physically distant, but we are connected spiritually and faithfully. And we need each other more than ever.
Whether it is supporting those in need through Jewish Family Service, holding communitywide gatherings for healing, connecting the community through The Reporter or funding special projects, Federation is often behind the scenes, keeping our community whole and moving forward. Please find the time to go to our website, www.jfgb.org, and make your pledge. Pledging early is a mitzvah because it will reduce exposure for our volunteers.
On behalf of the Federation, Reporter and JFS staff, I wish you all much peace and good health in the New Year. God willing, we will all be together again soon. Know that I am holding you all softly in my thoughts and prayers.