Holidays, especially, are a time for community. And – on this holiday – I want to tell you about my connection to this community, to all of you.
One sunny morning several years ago, I was here at PTS for a working meeting in the temple office. Once everyone arrived, we realized our group was too big to fit in the space we were in and we decided to move over to the Religious school.
It so happened that it was Purim and the preschool children were joyfully parading around the parking lot in their sweet costumes, surrounded by their adoring parents and grandparents.
As the group of us began our walk from the office to the Religious School, I immediately bumped into someone I knew and stopped to greet them. I excused myself and started to walk but immediately ran into another person I knew. The rest of my meeting group had made it across the parking lot but it seemed I couldn’t take a single step without being greeted by another person I was pleased to see and share a few words with.
I looked up to see the rest of the group standing there at the door to the Religious school and, understandably, waving me impatiently toward them.
I smiled as I realized I’d had to run the gauntlet – albeit a friendly, affectionate, wonderful gauntlet – talking with person after person just to make the short trek from building to building. If I hadn’t already realized it, I knew then that PTS was my place, my community, a place where I felt known and understood and valued. I said to myself, “Man, I am never leaving this place!”
You may wonder how I got here; how I got to this feeling of deep connection to the place and people. Did the rabbi interview me to find out the exact thing I’d like to do to get involved at PTS? Did the executive director or a temple board member just happen to take notice of me and invite me in? Did my in-laws, long-time temple members, create a path for me?
Nope. I inserted myself.
I offered to help on something (I don’t remember what, it was a long time ago) and I met a few people. They were getting involved in something else and I offered to help with that. And I met a few more people. Suddenly, when I went to services or a temple gathering I knew some people. I kept offering and I kept getting to know more people. Pretty soon, people were listening to my ideas and offering to help me. It just kept growing and growing – and all because I took that first step of offering.
As we move into Yom Kippur, my wish for you is that you resolve not to wait for someone to invite you; that you find the wherewithal to offer yourself for something, anything here and are rewarded with a new friend, a new partner in purpose, a new mentor, a new help-mate. I wish for each of you that never again can you make it across the parking lot at a pace anything more than a slow crawl through a mass of people you know, who understand and value you for the wonderful person you are.
May you each be sealed in the Book of Life for the new year!