Following through


I was surprised by the honesty and insight.

I was fortunate enough to be in the room when the newly installed international presidents of BBYO were giving their speeches to an assembly of regional presidents. I’m paraphrasing here, but at some point in the speech, AZA’s Grand Aleph Godol Mika Stein said, “We have everything we need to accomplish all of our goals. We have the ability. We have the resources. We have the support. The only thing that can stop us is our lack of follow-through.”

He went on to tell his peers that being a teenager is no excuse. If they wanted to make something happen, they needed to focus. They needed to see a project through. They needed to finish what they started.

It seemed rare that someone would admit that the real reason a goal was not reached was because effort was not made. It is more likely that we convince ourselves that something or someone else stopped our progress. But how many times, honestly, is a project not completed, change not accomplished, because we simply stopped.

It made me pause. His advice did not just apply to teens. And it seemed especially appropriate this time of year.

“Time once again to begin not becoming a better person.”

I saw that on Facebook. I may not be remembering it word for word, but it was something like that. It was a funny High Holiday cartoon meant to convey that year after year we make promises to ourselves to be better. To have fewer reasons to beat our chests. Fewer apologies to make.

And then we fail to follow through.

I’m not talking about superficial pledges — resolutions to diet, promises to eat healthier or find time for exercise. Don’t get me wrong. These are important. I understand why the airline attendants caution us as the plane lifts off, to first put the air mask on our faces before we assist our children. In other words, we are of no use to anyone, if we do not take care of ourselves.

It’s so easy to be lazy. So easy to make excuses. Yes, it would be nice to visit those who are lonely, but maybe next weekend. This weekend there are so many errands to run. Yes, I really meant to sign up to help with kiddush, but then I clicked on the email with the latest news about Kim Kardashian and then it just fell off my radar. Yes, I wanted to make the shiva call but I got tied up on a phone call and then it was rainy outside and I figured there would be plenty of others there.

So easy not to follow through, to find reasons not to do.

Then there are the promises we make quietly to ourselves and to God. Promises to change what is deep inside that is ugly and hateful. Gossip. Sloth. Hate. Ignorance. Intolerance. Impatience. Anger. Those moments we root for someone to fail. When we are less than generous of spirit.

The parts of us we hope no one else sees.

The pieces we need to change if we are to truly make a difference in the world.

That if we don’t, we are of no use to anyone.

These next few weeks as we prepare for the quiet time of prayer and reflection and atonement, let’s think about the days that come after the High Holy ones. And let’s promise to follow through.

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