As we watch the annual cycle of nature, we see the weather changing. The long, hot days of summer are waning, it’s getting dark earlier, the leaves are turning red, orange and brown, and it’s much cooler in the early mornings and late evenings. Fall brings our harvest festivals, both in the secular and Judaic calendars. Harvesting our crops brings us personal time for reflection. As we gather our crops, let’s take stock of our blessings, focus on the positive and on the things we can control, and show our appreciation for them.
So often we get caught up in a cycle of negativity. A child struggling with math, a husband looking for a job, a parent facing the challenges of aging: these battles drain our energy while we look for solutions, elicit others’ advice and continually revisit the issues. If we approached these difficulties by thinking how lucky we are to have children who love spending time with their friends, a husband who is able to attend the children’s sports games and parent meetings, and parents who are still with us, our thought processes may change the outcome of the situation. A child who doesn’t feel that her parents are disappointed in her math grade but rather are proud of her for treating her friends well will be more motivated to work harder at school and apply herself. A spouse who is more focused on the family than on losing a job will be in a better mind space when going for interviews and more likely to land a new job.
The turmoil in the world around us provides sufficient cause to get caught up in the negative mind trap. However, we need to remember that it is our obligation to raise the next generation of world citizens. They will be the products of what we expose them to. Personally, I have to believe that these will be the peacemakers, the generation that will change the world and make it a better place for everyone to live in. This will be the generation that will ensure worldwide access to education and health care, benefitting by harnessing the brain power of all its citizens. This obligation can only be fulfilled if we focus on the positive, moving forward towards the light rather than allowing the day-to-day negative struggles to define us and cause us to stagnate. Our children look to us as role models (although sometimes it’s hard to believe). Let us lead them forward in a positive direction, raising the next generation of leaders, empowering them to change the world and most importantly, really believing that they will! ✿
Sue Penn is the mother of three, Education Director at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.