This morning I was invited to Lucas’s school for “Torah Time,” an intimate meeting with rabbis, where together with our children, we learn the significance of the Torah. At one point, the parents and caregivers of nineteen children were welcomed onto the bima (the stage/platform), and forming a semicircle, facing the Ark (basically a cupboard for the Torah scrolls), we each had a chance to hold the Torah. We were asked to introduce ourselves to the group, to share if we’d ever held a Torah, if so when, and to talk about how it feels to hold it.
I didn’t want to be there. That is, yesterday, upon learning that this event was taking place, I replied to Lucas’s teacher that we weren’t religious people and that I wasn’t exactly sure what this event even was, aside from a push into religious schooling. So, I met with her yesterday, and she encouraged me to come, explaining that Lucas could, if we wanted, spend time in another preK classroom, or he could join us. “It’s really a parent child experience.”
Listening to the other parents share their stories, however short, felt like an opportunity that doesn’t happen enough as adults. That opportunity to watch people open up, even if it’s in a small way, to talk about their childhoods, to think back, to see body language open, to watch a room warm up. I love that everyone has a story, that a nanny with broken English, many parents raised Catholic, converted Jews, girls given the choice to Bat Mitzvah in the face of brothers who were all required, all opened to the experience.
Most remarkable to me was a moment when a rabbi talked about needing to remember how sacred the Torah is. She wasn’t speaking at us, but was sharing herself, her own need as someone who handles the Torah as often as she does, to remind herself of the history, the hands—and lives—in history who’ve touched these same scrolls before her. Just then, as she mouthed the words, I felt myself nodding. What a wonderful reminder, to hear from people who’ve maybe never held one, to listen to them tell you that holding a Torah feels like a hug, a child, a comfort, a part of something bigger.
In that moment, I thought of my writing. I’ve been circling this idea for the past two weeks, that since fourth grade I knew I wanted to be a writer, to spend the rest of my life “doing just this,” and then “it happened,” I was published, and that strong longing to be validated as a writer, that hunger to prove something, that eagerness to write, it stopped—just as a film ends the moment the central question is answered (Who will she choose, the good boy or the bad boy?). The hunger abated but the instinct to write, that natural reaction, is still there.
I know it because the other night, as I shared a cozy night among new friends, women sharing their stories of heartache, marital strife, and ex-wife woes, I kept thinking, “This would make a great premise,” or “I love your meet cute! I’m totally stealing that.” I wasn’t putting pressure on myself; it’s just my instinct, what I’m naturally drawn to do. That next morning, I awoke with a flood of ideas, beginnings of something.
And then today, as I heard the rabbi speak of that inclination to be desensitized, to take things for granted, it just clicked. That’s what I’ve been doing with my talent. I haven’t been valuing it, haven’t nurtured it, respected it. I believed that maybe there was something else I should be doing. And maybe that’s true. Nothing is keeping me from doing whatever it is I’m drawn to do, but I’ve been keeping me from fully valuing and appreciating my innate talents. I’ve taken my own strengths for granted.
I’m blessed today for having paid attention to my surroundings, for grabbing this meaning from a semicircle of preschool parents. And I’m sharing it with you to bring it top of mind for you, that you were born with distinct strengths, and it’s your responsibility to continue to discover and develop them. Maybe it will even help if you “play” along… what’s one strength you remember having as a child?