“I just want to forget about my painful past.” – Mr. Al Zoubi, a Syrian refugee living in Michigan (watch the video)
This week, I am focused on perspective. Our place in the universe, our gripes, our displeasure with simple things, our lack of joy at what truly matters.
You’ve heard the term first world problems. We are muddled in a lack of perspective. And on the cusp of a wonderful celebration for my family, my daughter’s bat mitzvah this weekend, and family coming together from places far and near, I want to see clearly.
And what I see is this:
A beautiful sun rising slowly and fully every single morning. Some days are gray and windy, others are golden with sunshine, the colorful trees backlit and sparkling.
When I arrive to teach at U of D, I walk onto the quiet campus in the heart of Detroit, and marvel at the clock tower standing tall above the other clay-roofed buildings. I feel the energy of college students eager to start their lives, to get places, to achieve long-held goals, and I stand at the front of the classroom and talk to them about how to speak their voices better, stronger, clearer.
At the end of each day, I come home to a beautiful abode, with thick walls that keep us warm on cool blowing nights and cool on sticky summer days. On any given day, there are other wonderful people in my home, children, my husband, friends, and I am thankful for their presence in my life. And their love.
There are days when I drive way too much to achieve far too many to-dos and there are days when I can’t stop the world from spinning around me.
But even still, I am breathing, standing, free to speak my mind, with the comfort of a cushioned bed and plenty of blankets to curl up under each night.
I have choices.
I have options.
I have freedom.
I have a sort of peace.
No one challenges what I believe or how I worship. I can walk down the streets of my neighborhood and nearby cities without worry about being stabbed or shot.
I never fear that someone will knock at my door and kick me out of my house because I don’t fit with their regime.
We in the west have our worries. We worry that we won’t have enough money for the things we want to do or buy. We worry that we will lose work. We worry that someone is mad at us and we worry about people who talk behind our backs.
We worry about how to pay for college for all the kids, and we worry about what people think of us just as we judge others.
I have friends who live in places where they fear sending their children to school in the morning because they don’t know if they will make it home at night safely.
I know people living in places where they cannot openly worship in the way they believe, who hide in basement cellars with ritual objects, praying so quietly as to not be heard.
And if, in my days of worry and wonder, I do not do something to chip away at the hatred in other parts of the world, then I have failed.
The price of freedom in a place like ours is that we have to stand up for those who do not have it.
It is not enough to simply celebrate all that we have and all that we achieve. That is good. But we must do more.
This weekend, my daughter takes charge in a Jewish worship service as an adult in our religious community. She is obligated to observe commandments, and with that comes the responsibility for standing up for what she believes in – and what we all believe in.
No matter whom you worship or what you believe, we share this: a belief in the right of each individual to choose their beliefs and their rituals, and the same right to respect others in their faith journeys.
I am so excited for this celebration weekend. I may not write much until after it is over because I want to be in the moments with my darling daughter and those we love, who love us.
So let me leave you with this: Peace-loving people love all people. There is really no other truth.