Life lessons and listening

Life lessons and listening

After meeting Josh Weston this week, I started to think about the extraordinary people I’ve been lucky enough to meet, through my great good luck in writing for this paper. (I almost wrote that I started to think about all of them, and then I realized that there are so many that I don’t even remember all of them.)

Part of my good fortune is because my job allows me to meet people and then ask them questions that would be impertinent if not actively rude in most other contexts. But more of it lies in the fact that there are an amazing number of really fascinating, brilliant, genuinely good people in this community, and I’m pretty sure in many other communities as well.

Still, Mr. Weston stands out.

And so does Rabbi Shai Held, who, as I’ve seen over the last two decades, combines brilliance and goodness in a rare and lovely way.

I was struck by how these two men, so very different in so many ways, both act with love. Rabbi Held talks about it more than Mr. Weston does — it makes sense, he’s a rabbi — but they both live it, with emotional generosity.

I am not given to reading self-help books. (I think few editors do. They make our fingers itch for red pencils far too often.) But Mr. Weston gave me a list of life lessons that he said guide him, and why should I hoard them?

So here they are:

1) Try to make a difference in whatever I do

2) Be helpful to others

3) Don’t be an egoist

4) The half-full part of any cup is more important than its empty half

5) Don’t worry a lot about troubles that I can’t fix

6) Think hard before I act. Know what I’m trying to accomplish, and also note the possible pitfalls

7) Criticize very little and compliment a lot

8) Think more about giving than getting

9) Being proactive is better than lapsing into long passive spectator modes.

Sounds simple, right? Maybe even obvious? But it’s not.

Not all of us can be either captains of industry or major philanthropists. I know I can’t. (To begin with, I suspect it takes math skills…)

Not all of us can be incisive, deeply humanist theologians, as Rabbi Held is, much less be the kind of theologian who can tolerate journalists and old friends poking fun at the figure some of us, perhaps misguidedly, see as a Hallmark poet manqué rather than a writer of limpidly beautiful prose-poetry. But if you’re that good, and that kind, you can.

And these are just two of many, many wonderful people I’ve been blessed with meeting. Not only do I thank all of you, I suggest, based on what I have learned, that we should try listening to each other. You never know.


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