Archive for August, 2011

Being Enough

Friday, August 5th, 2011

During the era in which I graduated, Fairfax High School was known as “the Jewish high school”.

Located at the corner of Fairfax and Melrose in the Borscht Belt section of L.A., the school was nestled in a pre-Hip Melrose Avenue pocket of small Orthodox synagogues, assorted bookstores, Cantor’s Restaurant and a nifty record shop called Norty’s.

Recently I attended a small get-together noting the forty-fifth anniversary of my class’ graduation. Honestly, I really hadn’t much wanted to go, but as she so often does these days, my fiance’ gently pushed me in the right direction.

Upon arrival, I decided that as long as I was there, I may as well try to learn something from the experience. I decided to be more of a listener than a talker and try to get a handle on how some of my fellow classmates have really turned out.

For the most part, it was an easy tactic: given the opportunity, most folks jump at the chance to talk uninterrupted about themselves. To be fair, they also wanted to know about me, but it still wasn’t hard to keep the ball mostly in their court.

Fairfax had always been known as a breeding ground for academic achievers, and this sampling has lived-up to expectations. One gentleman is a longtime administrator at UCLA., and another at MIT. A third has his own consulting firm up North and a fourth is a renown Doctor and legislator who’s on the verge of completing his second book.

I heard stories of estimable achievements, exotic travels, impending retirement plans, and saw pictures of beautiful grown children and grandchildren fostered by tri-decade marriages.

Truth to be told, I had an enjoyable time. These are all good people living good lives. Surprisingly, my overwhelming emotion was… pride. Rightfully or not, I felt proud for them. They are fine people who contribute to the American fabric and stay the path.

When last I went to one of these events, about ten years ago, my reaction was a different one. Hearing of the others’ more mainstream experiences and successes, I remember coming away with an embarrassing sense of envy and resentment. “Why had their lives seemingly gone so much smoother than mine? How come their material possessions so dwarfed mine? Jeez, I feel like such a failure next to some of them…”

But not this time.

Though nothing’s really changed on our varied life’s paths, I began to notice a new pattern developing in the conversations. After achievements were outlined and Smart Phone pictures replaced in pockets, the topic seemed to inevitably turn to spirituality. And it’s no surprise, is it? As we get older, it’s natural to think more about our own mortality and a Bigger Picture.

Knowing that I’m co-founder and Music Director of a synagogue congregation, some of the guys seemed comfortable wanting to share their ┬áspiritual status with me. One told of embracing a philosophy which combines aspects of Buddhism and Judaism. Another has regular meetings at his house specifically to discuss Matters Spiritual. A third hasn’t had much of a religious affiliation, but revealed that lately he’s been feeling a strong pull to get back to his roots.

And as they spoke, I was reminded of our real common bond: God.

I must confess that I talked a lot about the members of my congregation. I didn’t quite brag about them… well, I guess the truth is that I really did.

I talked about this miraculous congregation of which I’m so blessed to be a part. I talked about five hundred people at every Sabbath service and fifteen hundred at High Holy Day services. I marveled at the membership’s continued willingness to let me do my art at their services, and what a holy extended family we all are.

I shared about the miracles and recovery I’ve seen in our community nurtured by our synagogue, and how we continue to grow by impressive numbers. And in each case, I saw a look of nodding recognition in my friends’ eyes. Whether they actually did or not, I’d like to think they kinda “got” who I am.

I walked away from the get-together with a serene sense of pride and gratitude for what my life has become. And yet again I was reminded that conjuring-up feelings of being less than someone else is usually just a misguided, self-defeating waste of time.

We’re all Children of Almighty God, possessing of daily opportunities to grow, improve and lead meaningful lives. As long as we continually dedicate ourselves to those goals, I believe that in God’s eyes, I’m enough – you’re enough – we’re all good enough.

Apparently Fairfax High still had something to teach me.

Thank You, God.