My 7-year old niece Zoe has the most beautiful eyes. From the time she was little, everyone has commented on the remarkable beauty of her big, blue eyes.
But what makes Zoe’s eyes most beautiful, is that they reflect her inner beauty: her way of looking at the world that often belies her age. Zoe will often say things that are both wise beyond her years and reflect the innocence of her youth simultaneously.
Her ideas and notions are often deeply (and unintentionally) rooted in Jewish tradition and there is great wisdom to be gleaned from what she shares.
So on this New Year’s Day, I would like to share these lessons from Zoe for 2014. If we can strive to live up to these four ideas shared by Zoe, 2014 will be a very good year indeed.
1. Zoe has only recently joined a swim team. Physical activity has been a challenge to her and she has worked hard over the past year taking both physical therapy and occupational therapy to overcome some challenges. At her first “away” swim-meet, she placed last. But she was so thrilled to be there. On the phone, she told me in a very excited voice, “Auntie Sharon, I wasn’t disqualified!” She had a fabulous time and she was still “in the game”! Zoe appreciates all that she has. She lives life in the moment, with joy, zest and contentment.
We learn from Pirke Avot, “Teachings of the Fathers”, 4.1 “Who are wise? Those who learn from all people…Who are rich? Those who rejoice in their portion.” We too, can find a way to live “in the moment, ” to rejoice in our achievements and celebrate our success, to live with joy and contentment and to be thrilled that we are still “in the game.”
2. One day, out of the blue, Zoe told her mother, “Mom, I have a very big heart. My heart is so big, it can hold 1000 elephants.” Zoe’s heart IS tremendous! She is generous and kind. She feels empathy for others. She understands that we have an infinite capacity for love and for reaching out to others with a helping hand, a loving touch and a kind word.
The third book of the Torah, Leviticus 19:18, instructs us: “V’ahavta l’re’acha ka-mocha” – You shall love your neighbour as yourself. This is known as “The Golden Rule”. I could write a piece just on this, but suffice to say for now, that each of us has to feel as if our own heart can “hold 1000 elephants.” We need to feel a way to reach out to others and make a difference in their lives.
3. December 26, 2013 was the fourth anniversary of my father’s death. As my brother was observing our father’s yahrzeit (anniversary of death), Zoe said, “Grandpa, I love you as much as I’d love the world to live in peace.”
Zoe and her generation deserve to live in a world filled with peace. 7-year olds should not have to be worried about war, violence and terrorism.
Pirke Avot also teaches us: (1.12) “Be like the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing it.” It’s our obligation to work toward making this world a more peaceful place. If 7-year olds can verbalize that wish – we must act on it.
4. Zoe also gave my brother a 5-point business plan for his work. It was a fabulous business plan (Harvard Business School – watch out!) Her first part applies to us all:
Smile more. If people see you smile more, they’ll feel better about themselves. Then THEY will smile more and do a better job and make other people feel better about themselves. If you are smiling, perhaps that will encourage everyone to enjoy what they are doing. This ties back to the very first point above.
So, if we strive to live our lives in the year ahead through Zoe’s eyes, we will appreciate what we have and live life with zest, open our hearts to others, strive to make this world a more peaceful place and smile!
All the best for a 2014 filled with the blessings of health, contentment, joy, love and peace!