[Last weekend my daughter was off enjoying the annual Ulster County Fair. It reminded me of this story from several years ago. Enjoy, and Shabbat Shalom! -JK]
In July, I visited the Ulster County Fair with my family. Nomi had her good friend Ana along, and the two 9-year-olds were sampling the midway. After surviving some of the milder rides, Ana suggested we try a gigantic swinging contraption deceptively named the “Dreamcatcher.” It should have been called “The Stuff of Nightmares,” but I am getting ahead of myself. Wanting to be an accommodating host (I have no idea what got into me), I offered to go on the ride with her. After a thirty-minute wait, we climbed aboard, strapped ourselves in, and began to ascend in ever greater and faster swinging arcs. Suffice to say that I am never going to voluntarily ride the Dreamcatcher again.
As we staggered off the ride I was worrying that Ana’s parents would never trust me with their daughter again, so I turned to her and asked, in as cheery a tone as I could fake, “Well, Ana, are you glad you went on that ride?” And although Ana was quivering a bit herself, she replied with genuine enthusiasm, “Yes, because now I have a story to tell!”
I was thrilled by her response. Oh, if only I could be so enlightened in my approach to life! Ana was embodying at that moment a rare perspective. If we could anticipate every day as an opportunity to get some more stories to tell, think of the openness and curiosity that would animate our lives. Imagine if we could remain enthusiastic even in uncomfortable situations, anticipating the good story it would eventually make. Wow!
When I shared this story at Shabbat services a few weeks ago, Roberta Wall made a wise and important comment: Ana was able to anticipate telling her story because she knew that her parents would be interested in hearing it. We can only flourish when there are people who care enough to be interested in our stories. Every single person has a world of stories to tell, and one of the most life-giving gifts we can offer is our ear.
So I want to offer a blessing for the New Year right now: in the coming year, may all of us be graced with the perspective we need to approach each day with openness and curiosity, and may all of us have the strength and perseverance to survive our challenges and, in time, turn them into life-giving stories.
—Erev Rosh Hashanah 5770