Friends, I would like to share with you a lesson I learned this morning from my greatest teacher, my 9-month-old son, Shmuel Shmelke.
B’chasdei Hashem, over the past few weeks our Shmuel has hit several developmental milestones. Among them are crawling, pulling himself up to standing position, and — most recently — high fiving me, his Abba. It was this latest feat that sparked the following thought.
When we were certain that Shmuel’s holding out his hand to receive mine wasn’t a fluke, my wife and I were absolutely astonished. This action represented a stark manifestation of our baby’s emerging identity in his ability to reach beyond his consciousness in a form of communication as well as reflected his developing cognitive function in his understanding what was expected of him when I held up my hand and participating in this little game. Just as we had been when he crawled for the very first time, my wife and I were in absolute wonder. What a miracle! Completely mindblowing!
Reflecting on our reaction a bit later in the day, I began thinking about the great disparity between my standard for wonder in relation to little Shmuel Shmelke and to other adults in my life. Why is it that when Shmuel high fives me, it blows my mind, but in order for me to be even mildly impressed by the guy sitting next to me in shul, he needs to display some sort of great accomplishment or outstanding feat? I thought about this a lot and arrived at the conclusion that, at the core, there is nothing inherently less impressive about the “simple” functionality of an adult than that of a baby. Both are absolutely miraculous and deserve to inspire awe and wonder. It is just that, when it comes to a baby, the communicative consciousness expressed in a simple high five stands in stark contrast to his lack of expressivity of just a few days ago. Witnessing the emergence of a unique personality from the void of infancy is what so astounds us. However, this distinction is purely circumstantial. Inherently, witnessing the expression of an adult’s personality is no less astounding than witnessing that of a baby.
The implication of this truth rippled through me like a wave. It was suddenly crystal clear to me that our standards for evaluating our own self-worth and the worth of others are completely corrupted. If I was able to live with this consciousness and see every “natural” human expression as a worthy catalyst for radical amazement and wonderment, I wouldn’t be so demanding in my standards for expressing love, respect, and admiration toward myself or others. If I truly appreciated the miracle of our very humanity, it wouldn’t take an extraordinary accomplishment for me to value myself or another. Rather, a smile, a high-five, a conversation, a glimmer in an eye, a thought process; all of these things would blow me away with their awesomeness and remind me just how worthy I am for simply being me! They would remind me how precious and truly awe-inspiring every human being is, regardless of what he or she has or hasn’t produced, built, earned, or accomplished.
These days, it seems like so many of us spend the bulk of our time worrying, stressing, and experiencing anxiety. These emotions set in when we forget that we are worth it, just as we are – that the very faculty of thought which allows us to fret over our meager accomplishments when held against those of our co-workers and friends should itself rightfully elicit the most powerful self-love and respect. If we remember this idea and work on appreciating the simple fact of our existence – the most wondrous and beautiful miracle of all, it will be easier for us to live life with joy, contentment, and true peace of mind.
High five! We are a miracle!
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