How Great Are You?

Greatness.jpeg

INDISPENSABLE?

      Sometime, when you’re feeling important,

      

      Sometime, when your ego’s in bloom,

      

      Sometime, when you take it for granted,

      

      You’re the best qualified in the room.

      

      Sometime when you feel that your going,

      

      Would leave an unfillable hole,

      

      Just follow these simple instructions,

      

      And see how it humbles your soul.

      

      Take a bucket and fill it with water.

      

      Put your hand in it, up to the wrist;

      

      Pull it out; and the hole that’s remaining, 

      

      Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

      

      You may splash all you please when you enter,

      

      You can stir up the water galore,

      

      But stop, and you’ll find in a minute,

      

      That it looks quite the same as before.

      

      The moral in this quaint example,

      

      Is just do the best that you can,

      

      Be proud of yourself, but remember,

      

      There’s no indispensable man.

            

      – Saxon White Kessinger

(Thank you to my daughter, Minna Blumenthal, for sharing this)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Mortality Unlimited

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So this week, there seems to be a theme of human frailty and mortality and I wanted to share it. 


While it is the holidays and we are celebrating and happy to be with our family and loved ones, it is also a time to miss those that are gone, care and pray for those that are not well, and give thanks for our own blessings.


5 examples in one week (and trust me, I am holding back):


1) Death of family member – One wonderful lady in the office who recently lost her mother (her mom was in her very early 60s and just didn’t wake up one morning) came to the holiday party, but looked sad. I asked about her well-being, and she said she is doing well, but is still remembering and dealing with the recent loss of her mom who she was so close with. We talked briefly how it takes time to mourn and heal, and frankly, we never really get over it. 


2) Death of friend – A women I know just lost a very good friend (early 40s) to Kidney failure. She is on vacation, but is sad mourning over the loss, and also recognizing her own mortality and that anything can happen at anytime. 


3) Very ill teenager – A teenager was at a recent Shabbat event with her peers celebrating G-d and her Jewishness, and at the event revealed that she has a brain disease and the doctors told her she only has a few months to live. She said that unfortunately she will never get to see her wedding day. It was heartbreaking. 


4) Sick children – A colleague at work took a few hours off to deliver holiday gifts to the local children’s hospital. She helped start an organization to raise money and support children with cancer and other devastating illnesses. It was a very beautiful thing to give back to the innocent kids. 


5) Aging gracefully – A friend who recently hit the big 6-0 was a little depressed. When I asked him how he’s dealing with it, he acknowledged that it’s hard, but that he had all year to prepare (smile). But at the same time, he said that he can’t help looking back on his life as well as thinking forward to what comes next. He’s had his share of illness, but medical science (with G-d’s help) saved his life so far. We talked about not knowing what happens but that he could have another 30 “good years” or that sometimes having a quick, peaceful end can be okay too–since quality of life matters as much or more than quantity. 


The point from all this is not to be sad, but to realize we are but “flesh and blood” and we are alive only because G-d sustains us. 


What we can do is take care of ourselves and our loved ones and make the most of each and every day. We are not guaranteed any number of years or anything else, so each moment is as precious and needs to be lived as if it could be the last. 


Savor your blessings, because that is what they are–as my mother-in-law says, you are entitled to and the world owes you nothing.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What’s Your Vice?

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So no one is perfect.


And no matter how outwardly pious the person, everyone inwardly has some hidden (or not so) vice or excess that they must learn to tame.


Here’s a top 23 list:


Substance Abuse

1) Cigarettes

2) Alcohol

3) Drugs


Greed

4) Food

5) Money (e.g. gambling, hoarding)

6) Materialism (e.g. homes, cars, boats, planes, jewels, clothes, etc.)


Obsessive Compulsive

7) Work

8) Sex

9) Popularity (e.g. talking, partying)

10) Religion 

11) Sport

12) Control


Anger

13) Violence

14) Abuse (e.g. verbal, emotional, physical)

15) Rape 


Callous

16) Indifference

17) Tardiness

18) Laziness


Egotistical

19) Selfish

20) Boastful


Crooked

21) Lying

22) Cheating

23) Stealing


Think about the people you know–love ’em or hate ’em–and is there anyone that doesn’t have one of these to some extent or another?


And for those of you wondering, my vice is, of course, pizza! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Am Doing

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Today, a disabled man asked the lifeguard at the pool, “How are you doing?”


The lifeguard couldn’t understand or fully hear the disabled man who had to repeat the question multiple times.


Then, the lifeguard responded, “I am doing well. How are you doing?”


The disabled man with a blank to sad look on his face says, “I am doing.”


His response of just “doing” (not well, good, or fine) was like just going on day-to-day amidst very challenging life circumstances of illness and disability–just in a state of being, but certainly not feeling like he was thriving in his current life. 


It reminded me of my own parents, survivors of the Holocaust. 


After the horror and loss of the Holocaust everything, including coming to this country without a dime or a job was just a cakewalk in comparison. 


For 25-years, my dad would never even go to the doctor. 


He would say, “G-d is my doctor!”


Only later in life, when all his friends were sick or failing, and my mom was so sick with Parkinson’s would my dad respond to people’s questions of how he was, by saying simply, “Surviving!”


And then often adding, “We are part of the survivors’ club.”


When we’re young, healthy, and vibrant, the world seems too small compared to what we think we can do and accomplish.


That’s good–it gives us the thrusters in life to go as far as we can with accomplishments and progress. 


As we age though, the realities of life and health come into vision and we realize that we can’t lift cars with one hand (anymore) or fly lightening speed with just our cape around the globe–we’re mortal. 


This doesn’t mean that we can’t do great things for ourselves and the world at any age and with any (dis)ability, just that it many not be as simple or as easy any longer–we have to fight harder and be part of the survivor’s club. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Does Every Problem Have A Solution?

Hands

So someone said something interesting to me yesterday.


They were going off about this and that problem in the world. 


Then seemingly exasperated by the current and desperate state of affairs, they go “You know what? Not every problem has a solution.”


And that really took me aback.


As a student and then a professional, I have always prided myself on looking for a solution to every problem. 


Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t, but I was always taught to try!


Now someone says to me this earth-shattering news that maybe there is not a good solution out there for every catastrophic problem.


So this got me thinking…


Maybe some problems are just too big or too complex for our mortal minds to even understand or our supercomputers to really solve. 


Or perhaps sometimes things have gone too far or are too far gone, and we can’t always easily just turn back the clock.


Are there some things that we can’t really make right what we did so wrong for so long, despite the best intentions now. 


And in life are some things just a catch-22 or a zero-sum game–where every way forward is another dead end or it has consequences which are too painful or otherwise unacceptable. 


This sort of reminds me of the sick brutal Nazi in the Holocaust who took a women with two beautiful young children to the side and said, “Choose!”


“Choose what?” she innocently replies.


And the sadistic Nazi pulling out his gun says, “Choose which of your children will live and which will die, you have 30 seconds or I kill them both!”


Indeed, some problems have no good solution as hard as that is for me to hear or accept.  


All we can do is our best, and even when we can’t satisfactorily solve those completely vexing problems to us (because some things are not in the realm of the possible for mere mortals), we have to continue to go forward in life because there really is no going back. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why Can’t We Just Stay As Superman?

Superman

So when we’re young, we think we’re Superman, Batman, or whatever superhero comes to mind. 


Our bodies are beautiful, supple, strong, and heal quickly. 


We are taught by our helicopter parents and philosophic teachers that “You can do anything you set your mind to!


In our fantasies, we surely can do amazing things–we lift unbelievable weight, fly around at the speed of light, do karate better than Bruce Lee, outthink Einstein, save the world, and then make off with the beautiful damsel to boot.


Kryptonite is no problem–we are (seemingly) invincible.


Then we hit middle age–40 something–and all of a sudden what do you know?


Oh, this doesn’t work right and that doesn’t feel right.


The Yiddish expression, “Oy vey” seems about it.


And off to the doctors we go.


After the exam and tests, doc says, “Mr. (or Ms.) [whatever], you have [fill in the blank].”


You respond, “Is that normal–at my age–already?”


Doc says, “Absolutely, this is what happens as you get older.”


I say, “Doc, does anything good happen when we get older.”


“Of course not”–we both laugh. 


This reminds me of when my dad used to sing this song in this funny mock Irish accent, “You’re not as young as you used to be you’re getting old and gray!” 


This week, a colleague was coming down with something–possibly something not good. 


I told him how I hoped this turns out well for him and how sorry I was for what he was going through.


Writing off the illness, he says to me, “We all end the same anyway” (i.e. we all end up dead!)–ah, another unhappy notion that is. 


I joked back, “But we all don’t end up in the same place.”


I got a few laughs at that too (some of my father in me). 


Well anyway, I thought about this after–about some of the special subhuman beings out there–and the very special place that I am certain G-d has in store for them:


– Serial murders and other violent criminals


– Rapists and child abusers


– Terrorists and their sponsors


– Megalomaniacs, bullies, and corrupt officials


– Thieves, cheats, and liars.


And guess what about these schmendricks–they get old too, they go to the doctor too, and then they are going somewhere warm, very warm, and it’s not to the Caribbean. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Freak Accidents, Illnesses, And Events

Treadmill

Dave Goldberg, the CEO of Survey Monkey (and the husband of Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook), died suddenly in a freakish accident falling off a treadmill and hitting his head. 


Poof…dead at age 47!


Unfortunately, we hear all the time about these type of tragic occurrences to people.


And of course tragedy knows no bounds–so while sh*t happens everyday to people from all walks of life, we tend to pay more attention when it’s someone we know and love or when it’s splashed wildly in the news about fabulously successful people we admire and follow. 


– Entertainer, Michael Jackson (50) dead from drug intoxication after suffering cardiac arrest.


– Actor, Robin Williams (63) dead by hanging suicide. 


– Singer, John Lennon (40) shot in the back by someone he had autographed an album for.


– Martial Artist, Bruce Lee (33) died on a movie set from a cerebral edema.


– Model, Marilyn Monroe (33) dead by drug overdose.


– President, John F. Kennedy (46) dead by assassination.


Whether by a plane crash or car accident, drowning or fire, poison or electrocution, a criminal or animal attackterrorism, war, or natural disaster, a heart attack, stroke, or cancer, through suicide, punishment, or mercy killing…regardless of the probabilities and statistics, many people never make it all the way to “a ripe old age.” 


We feel bad, shake our heads, say a few words of sympathy perhaps, when we hear of these lives cut short.


But like the TV shows, Six Feet Under (HBO) or 1000 Ways To Die (Spike)–there are a near endless number of horrible ways to go–and they can take you at literally any time.


While we can’t stop living and just sit around worrying all the time about all the bad things that can happen, we do need to remember that anything can happen at any time (and these things are not so freakish after all)–no one is beyond the Angel of Death, no one should be arrogant, and we should make the most of every single moment that G-d lovingly grants to us.  😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Military Health)