Take a look to the right of these paragraphs and scroll down until you see the option for ‘Live Traffic Feed,’ then note the countries listed. Behind each entry is someone who used their computer to access this blog containing the latest happenings of our Children’s Home and what’s on our minds. People like you from around the world have found their way to this blog, reinforcing the universal values we discuss here, most importantly, the love of and welfare of all children.
So there’s no doubt that the shock, sadness and anger we’re feeling as a nation because of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School is reverberating around the entire world.
In this aftermath, there is simply too much to process in order to move forward. Families are dealing with the finality of never seeing their loved ones again. Each innocent child and staff member is gone forever. In response, they are being mourned and eulogized. The significance of even the youngest life is being discussed as loved ones seek ways to cope with their loss.
Even the life of the murderer is being probed, and he will forever be known for his heinous act. I will not give in to what was most likely one of his motivations, to gain notoriety through it. He will not be named here. Just mentioning this brings to mind too much tragedy and sadness, and the thought that perhaps seriously confronting mental illness as a society should be further up on the agenda than gun control.
The more profound message at this time is perhaps to ask ourselves what our own legacy will be.
Among the range of emotions playing out at this time lays an opportunity for each of us to ask, “How will I be remembered?” As someone who takes interest and supports the orphaned girls at the Home, it’s an opportunity to highlight the legacy of giving that you are cultivating in your own life.
I want to point out the significance of your generosity with something that occurred after my sister passed away at 34 years old.
She was a neo-natal nurse and a prolific writer. The year was 1996, so her reams of notes were saved in notebooks instead of on a computer. As you can imagine, there was a lot to go through: important documents, writings, poetry, and drawings, and something more significant that stands out from the rest: her personal Book of Tithes.
Though my sister was not an observant Jew, she sought out religious thoughts and philosophies. I remember our conversation regarding the obligation in Jewish law to take maaser, tithes, from our income. It wasn’t until I found this book that I understood how much our discussion moved her. The ledger carefully reflected her income and where she would invest her charity. Some entries were of well-known non-profits. Others were names of individuals who had fallen on hard times.
In her last days, over a hundred people came to inquire of her welfare and express their concern. This book explained why. With her generosity of spirit and support, she had created a legacy of giving that still thrives in our memory.
How will we be remembered?
Our family recently discussed this during our nighttime reading ritual. Instead of a story, one of my boys selected a book of facts and, in particular, a section on outer space. Our reading lead to the excerpt featuring Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who died along with his crew in 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia exploded upon re-entry to the earth’s orbit.
We learned that Ilan was the first astronaut ever to request kosher food. More than this, although the astronauts were allowed only a few small personal possessions to bring with them, he chose a mezuzah, a miniature sefer Torah, and a Kiddush cup, which he later proudly displayed on TV. Ilan also observed the Sabbath during his time in space. This required rabbinic guidance to determine exactly when the Sabbath should be observed, since the period between sunrises in orbit is approximately 90 minutes.
These decisions were pivotal in shaping our memory of Ilan forever. Today he is perceived not only as an astronaut or even an Israeli astronaut, but also as a Jew who wished to connect to G-d as he roamed His universe.
I told my children to imagine Ilan travelling into space like any other astronaut, with the barest minimum of his personal belongings. Surely, he still would have been hailed as a hero of space exploration. But now we can take his memory that much further as someone who testified to the existence of his Creator.
At this time of national and international mourning of sweet children and the adults who tried to save them, we have a choice of where to focus. Moving forward, let our focal point be the courageous acts of bravery and self-sacrifice that emerged in the aftermath. Let’s heed the message of each one, that life isn’t simply about existing, but rather, shaping a significant legacy based on how much we give to others.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for making us a part of yours.
In sympathy for the families in Newton, Connecticut, our hearts are shattered with yours. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Director of Development