3 Pointers for Renewing Your Faith
Ok, so that headline was a bit tongue-in-cheek. But honestly, it’s been a tough week. I was thinking I’d take a break from posting. But today I heard a talk that was packed with so many great lessons, I had to write about it. Rabbi Paysach Krohn came to speak at the school where I teach. Although his lessons were intended as a guide on living a meaningful life, I realized they could also help when you’re feeling frustrated with life and have lost hope in humanity.
Three Realizations That Will Restore Your Hope
1. There’s good all around you, if you pay attention
Now that I’ve taught for several years, I’ve developed thick skin — despite the occasional meltdown. But what infuriates me is seeing just how cruel kids can be to one another.
For instance, in my after-school program, I have a student who recently immigrated from Korea and speaks little English. I’ve been encouraging her to speak up more in class.
A few days ago, she was reading aloud when a boy said (rudely), “I can’t hear!” I gently explained to her that her back was turned to him. Then he said, “No, it’s because of her accent.” The girl’s face dropped. Man, I wanted to strangle that boy!
Although at the all girls’ school where I teach, the kids are generally kinder to one another, we all know that teenage girls can be petty and downright mean.
Rabbi Krohn told a story, though, that suggested there may still be hope for our youth. One involved kids getting on a bus. One kid (the speaker’s grandson) noticed a boy down the street, frantically running to catch up with the bus. The crabby bus driver refused to wait, so the grandson got off so that the other boy would not have to walk alone.
As I heard this story, I remembered that last week, my students did a class activity involving independent reading. For one student, an Iranian immigrant, this has always been difficult. But her classmate, who spoke a little Farsi, sat next to her the entire class period, translating the readings.
The point is, it’s easy to dwell on the negativity happening around you — people’s cruelty and plain ignorance. But all that does is make you frustrated and lower your vibration. Before you know it, everywhere you look, there’s something to be outraged about.
Why not seek out the good instead?
2. Even if you don’t immediately see the result of your actions, you’re still making a difference
Another story involved a woman receiving a box of donated clothes. Contained in one of the dresses was an envelope containing $950 — the exact amount she needed for rent.
The person who gave the donations chose to include the money because he knew that a person receiving used clothes would probably need it. Still, he did not know exactly what the end result would be when he chose to include that envelope.
In the same way, our acts of kindness are like “envelopes.” When we say hi to a stranger, we don’t know what will come of it.
Sometimes, your thoughtfulness is met with downright ingratitude. Like I said, I’ve developed thick skin, so it doesn’t hurt my feelings if students don’t listen to me. But what really makes me want to scream is after I’ve so carefully chosen their assigned readings, they don’t even give these books a chance.
I know, for instance, a dry, impenetrable text from the 1600s isn’t going to resonate with them. So I chose Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, which they would quickly see is humorous, captivating, and highly entertaining — if they bothered to read one page.
But instead they’d rather brag to each other about not reading. Which makes me want to give up on them completely.
After hearing Rabbi Krohn’s talk, I realized there are other ways to view this situation:
- Maybe I need to try another angle, like reading a few pages from the book aloud in class. That might convince the non-readers that it’s at least worth picking up.
- Be grateful for the students who are appreciative. One girl told me she loved the book and couldn’t wait to write an essay about it. This lesson has parallels to blogging, too: when I feel down about my low traffic numbers, I remind myself to be grateful for all my engaged, loyal readers.
- Remember that it can take years for your thoughtfulness to be appreciated. I’m sure parents can relate. In fact, one parent was recently telling me how her sons did not show gratitude for all that she did. I reassured her that they would someday. I, too, took my parents’ love and sacrifice for granted when I was a bratty teen (sorry, Mom!), but boy, am I grateful now!
3. The more you give, the more you get
Last, Rabbi Krohn told us the story of a family gathering. The baby son of the family hosting the party had wondered outside, ending up in the swimming pool. One of the guests, who happened to be an EMT, was able to reach the baby in time and rescue him.
As it turns out, the EMT almost didn’t make it to the party because he was having financial issues. But the host insisted, paying for the EMT and his family to attend.
When you give to those who are deserving, it will inevitably come back to you in some way.
Yes, the reward might not be as direct in some cases. But it certainly leads to greater happiness and inner peace. It also strengthen your relationships with others.
The giving doesn’t have to be financial. You can always give your time and energy.
The other week, a student asked me if she could interview me for a class assignment. I had a lot of grading to do. I was tempted to say no.
But I decided to help her, and I’m so glad I did. I could tell it really meant a lot to her. Plus, the interview was fun!
It’s what Derek Rydall refers to in his book The Abundance Project as The Law of Circulation: whatever’s missing is what you’re not giving.
In my case, I felt like I wasn’t getting appreciation from my students. But by putting love out into the world — and taking better care of myself — my world got a whole lot brighter.