It Is The Relationships…Stupid

Twenty-six years ago I sat in the Judean Hills overlooking Jerusalem and listened to someone chant Eicha, the Book of Lamentations. We were celebrating Tisha B’Av, a day that commemorates virtually every bad thing that has happened to the Jewish people.

I was 16 years-old and struck by two conflicting feelings/thoughts:

1) “I wish this would end so that my girlfriend and I can go find somewhere private….”

2) These terrible things happened to…us, to my community.

And community is something that I think about quite a bit for all sorts of reasons.  Here on my blog I think about how to build a community. I spend time trying to figure out how I can be true to myself as a writer and still involve the people that come here to read my words and share their own.

In my personal life I think about community for a number of different reasons. In relationship to my family I think about community and how it applies to the laws and customs regarding death. I think about community as it pertains to Shiva and my family.

I am grateful that so many people have come out to sit with my family and to try to provide comfort. There is an understanding that people are communal creatures and that we do better when we support each other.

Outside of my family the boys and I do what we can to help each other in whatever way we can. We sit around the table at the diner and swap stories about this and that.

“It’s the economy, stupid”

Someone mentions that history repeats itself and I nod my head. I throw out “It’s the economy, stupid” and we nod our heads together. It was a campaign slogan that Bill Clinton during his first campaign but back then we didn’t care about it the way that we do now.

Now we are all fathers in various states of marriage and or relationships. As young twenty-somethings we were too busy trying to start careers and or find companions to warm our beds. No one worried about mortgages, private school tuition or how to contend with a crazy ex-wife.

But now is different. Now we nod our heads and laugh at the idea of retiring any time before 60 and even that is pushing it. I suspect that even if we won the lottery most of us wouldn’t consider retiring at 60- but there is a difference between working because you want to and because you have to.

At a table nearby I overhear some guy saying that anyone who is struggling now is doing so because of their own poor choices. I don’t realize that I am staring at him and it it doesn’t take more than a moment for him to notice. He stares back at me and I refuse to break eye contact.

I look at him and say that compassion is in short supply and then I turn back to the guys at my table. One of them looks at me and says “relax.” It takes a moment for me to realize that my fists are clenched and the vein in my forehead is protruding.

I smile at him and tell him it is ok and that I have no desire to mix it up with anyone. He laughs and says that is the most compassionate thing he has ever heard me say. I laugh with him and tell the boys that I am thankful for their friendship. Twenty years ago there would have been a lot of smart ass remarks made but not anymore.

Today we understand life differently than before. Today we do the best we can to demonstrate that we understand compassion by supporting each other. Life has been different than we expected it to be but we have a long way to go before this story is over and there is optimism.

One of the guys says that maybe we’ll get lucky and find a way to stimulate the economy the way it was under Clinton. We shrug our shoulders and nod our heads. It is hard to say what things will look like in six months, a year or five. But I am optimistic because to do otherwise is simply unthinkable.

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  1. TheJackB August 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    @rutimizrachi As we used to say in camp, Toads and Rabbits- better known as Todah Rabah.

  2. rutimizrachi August 10, 2011 at 9:22 am

    @TheJackB May she be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim, Jack… May you be comforted as well.

  3. TheJackB August 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

    @rutimizrachi We are told not to separate ourselves from our community and there is ample reason why we shouldn’t. I was thinking about that at shiva last night and how appreciative my eema has been of the people who have come to visit.

  4. TheJackB August 10, 2011 at 8:05 am

    @KimDavies The people who stand shoulder to shoulder with us are so very important.

  5. rutimizrachi August 10, 2011 at 2:10 am

    “Hang in there” is easier when we’re hangin’ in together. It might even save the world — the together part, I mean. I frequently find myself quoting Jason Nesmith these days. “Never give up. Never surrender.”

  6. KimDavies August 9, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Way to go, Jack! 🙂 Optimism, hope, compassion and understanding need not be lacking in times of strife. In fact, these are the times when they should be in abundant supply and it is up to us to provide that.

    And, there are always people out there you can depend to fight the war with you no matter what. 🙂

  7. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    @bdorman264 You are absolutely correct- it can get worse. I have seen and experienced that. Given the choice I’d much prefer to be innocent and naive but those days are gone and I am ok with that.

    Now I am just rolling with the punches and trying to take whatever comes. Life is hard now, but I am still smiling.

  8. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    @zjrosenberg If there is one thing I can say it is that I know about fighting and how to do it. Fighting is easy- what is hard is recognizing when to relax and enjoy. 🙂

  9. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    @Billy_Delaney I like heroes who have a tragic flaw- they are more human to me and consequently easier to relate to. Superman is fun,but he always does the right thing. Give me the hero/man that slips up and I’ll be far more interested.

  10. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    @girlygrizzly I enjoy talking about lots of things. Never hurts to listen and think as long as we can take action to change things.

    Shiva is very important. I have been to a lot of funerals and seen a lot more of what goes on than I would like. Sometimes it is not what you say but what you do. Just making an appearance makes a difference.

    I might be suffering from a case of the grass is always greener, but the idea of roaming around Alaska sounds great to me. Would be nice to get more fresh air so I don’t stagnate behind this ‘puter.

  11. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    @BetsyKCross Many who didn’t know it are learning it now.

  12. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    What’s that quote? “There but by the grace of God go I”? Well, I’ve been there.LOL. Those who haven’t better learn that little line.

  13. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    JackB ~ You are my friend. I know in many cultures, you boys rule. I can be quiet, it’s taken all of my 40 years, but I finally have a handle on it! (mostly) I would love to sit there on that hillside and listen to you and Billy talk about the world and the people in it. I think, the value of listening to you gentlemen discuss life, as we know and live it, would be in the powerful need to improve things.

    Compassion is one of those powerful tools we were given by Him, that we have let slip through the fingers of the wind that pushes us through this life. I went where the Shiva link took me. What a beautiful custom. I have to read more. My mother said we HAD to attend church. (period) But, she didn’t say we HAD to go to THAT church.

    What an incredible gift she gave us (there are 3 of us). The understanding of those different religions opened me to one truth (in my heart). HE is ALL of THEM. I believe with all of my being that as long as we strive, each and every single day of our lives to be better, better than we were (individually) yesterday and keep a tight hold on our compassion and faith, we will be led to where we can help one another.

    Thank you, JackB for this post. ~Amber-Lee

  14. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks JackB, I’d love to have the chance to sit on the hillsides of Israel with you and talk. My hero is David, not for killing the Giant; but for never usurping the King Saul. He lived a hellish life for a long time, demands upon him from those who where in trouble, discontent, and in debt! He cried, laughed, sang, wrote beautifully, lead a nation, was a warrior, lover, underdog, villian, womanizer, and a whole lot more.

    One of the most interesting people in the Bible. Billy

  15. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Sure is the truth. Reminds me of the saying that goes something like “you’ve got to laugh so you don’t got to cry.” Basically, we’re all in this life – and now we’re fathers, so there’s a higher power we’re answering to. We’ve got to be the best we can be because the rest of the world won’t – or at least, we can’t bank on it. Anyway – “fight the good fight” and keep your head up. And all those other cliches.

  16. Livefyre August 9, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Things will definitely get better my friend; just stay the course. The flip side is, it could be a hell of a lot worse. What if you were walking 100 miles to find food and water for your family; that would probably tip out on the suck meter for me.

    It’s all about perspective. Is it perfect, heck no but most of it we don’t control anyway; only how we react to it.

    Good to see you today.

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