Bestowing beauty while healing
Photo by Chungkuk Bae/ Unsplash
I had a very close friend call to wish me a happy Jewish New Year. She told me that she had seen a man going through the trash outside of her house and had asked if he was hungry. He said he hadn’t eaten all day. She went in and packed him up some food in a grocery bag. She looked him in the eye and asked his name. He had started looking in his wallet to give her ID, as if he was in trouble. She told him she hoped things would get better for him.
It is a custom to collect food for the poor at this time of year but here was something that went beyond bringing cans of food to a temple. This was direct human upliftment. My friend laughed and said when her partner heard about what she did, she would say that now the man would come back all the time. I said she could tell him that it was just a one time hand out to honor him. My friend laughed and asked herself, ‘what if it wasn’t?’ “What if I spend an extra thirty dollars at the grocery store each week and can help him out?”
This story goes beyond mere charity. My friend has struggled her whole life to climb out of the shadow of a horrendous and abusive childhood. She told me this is the first time in her life that she doesn’t feel like a victim but a survivor. She credits her survival, beyond therapy, to love and friendship.
We are heading into Yom Kippur, which is a holiday of forgiveness. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are an opportunity for reflection and atonement. The idea is to reach out to those we have wronged during the year and ask for their forgiveness. Although, there is a divine prompting to this ritual, it remains a chance to become vulnerable, to open ourselves up to our humanity.
Throughout her journey towards being what she calls, ‘ a survivor’, my friend has consistently been a bright light of love to those around her. She has raised beautiful children, she has been a teacher. She has been not only a lighthouse but a shelter for those that she perceived to have been abused. She stands up for the rights of others. She has been a pillar of friendship and faith in humanity for me. She has even forgiven the one who tormented her. This was not because she condoned their actions but for her own sanity.
It seems she has forgiven life itself for the hardships it has handed her. She has managed to find the vast good and beauty life paradoxically holds out to her. This is the kind of forgiveness that allowed her to laugh and bring hope and joy into her world, even while she wrestled with the lie that told her she was no good. She has navigated through the pain to the fullness of what can be given and received.
Yom Kippur uses the imagery of a Book of Life. We are encouraged to say to one another, “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy and happy year.” Beyond religious conviction, this ritual prompts us to expand our circle beyond ourselves, but to be included in the rippling gratitude that recognizes faults, slights and hardship can all be overcome with love and forgiveness.
May you be inscribed for a meaningful and transformative year of great beauty that brings you and those around you a freedom vaster than survival.