Sunday, October 24, 2010

Think Fast!

“Think Fast!” an adolescent boy’s voice calls out. I see it out of the corner of my eye a watermelon flying toward me. Without even thinking, like a skilled football receiver, I catch the huge green melon before it smashes into a million pieces on the ancient, unforgiving brick floor in our kitchen/dining room of my childhood home. The watermelon quarterback—my brother…is on the other side of the room. His belief—people do better when they spontaneously react to a situation…this includes ten year old girls catching ten pound watermelons.

He was notorious for this little trick—my mother who looked and sounded like a matriarch from Boston would catch cantaloupes and honeydews with her little proper black leather handbag swinging from her arm. “Oh for heaven’s sake Stephen!” She would chide in her New England accent—“Must I be bombarded by fruit the minute I walk in the door? Please stop playing with the food.”

Although we were annoyed by these surprise attacks—there was something also deeply satisfy about being able to test your reaction time and hand-eye coordination. People go out of their way now to push themselves…to test their skills—executive outward bound programs, training for and running the NYC Marathon. Perhaps all they need is a stealth boy tossing fruit at them. You have no time to doubt yourself when you have a watermelon headed your way. Think FAST!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Building the Fire

It is Bar/Bat Mitzvah high season for The Beast. Although born and raised an atheist—the child has embraced the Jewish culture—the singing, the dancing, the clapping, the high end catering, the swag….

It was a Bat Mitzvah that brought me, the ultimate non-religious person, to a temple this past Saturday.

I was watching the sailboats out on the river from this beautiful temple perch high on a hill in the Hudson Valley and suddenly in this quiet religious spot I looked down at the translation of what the child was reading in Hebrew. It was about building a fire…which is, of course, symbolic of so many things, but in the setting of the temple on a sunny, fall, Bat Mitzvah day—I could only think of one thing….raising a child.

In this wealthy suburb with houses packed full of goods and the children packed full of school and lessons and events—I thought about this prayer about how to build a fire. This prayer says that a strong fire is built by placing just as much care on the empty spaces as on the places where there is wood. It is about the space that is left between the wood that allows the fire to grow. Too much wood and the fire just smolders and never catches.

With our lives so full—is there room to build a fire? Is there room to grow or have we allowed the busyness of our lives to suffocate what we are actually trying to achieve? The child with so many activities, even if they are all good for her—does she have space to grow into what she want to become? Does she have time to decide what she wants to become? Thanks to religion I had some space in my day to think of The Beast and the need to put some space in our lives so the fire can grow.