If only I knew then what I know now……

(Author’s own)

Every morning, I hope and pray that this Pandemic is just a very bad dream…..only to realize within milliseconds that it’s not.

The sinking feeling of this surrealistic reality impacts our daily existence as we awake to another day of mask wearing, social distancing, remote communication and a profound yearning for normalcy.

Every day that passes, I reflect on the days just prior to the Pandemic. If only I knew then what I know now.

People now use the term “new normal” in order to rationalize and accept the status quo. But, deep down inside our hearts, minds and psyche we all know that our current condition is far from”normal” and the term “new” is viewed through the lenses of fear, anticipation and anxiety……and,  begs the question – what else awaits us in the turbulent sea of uncertainty?

I think about how much I took for granted. Not needing to worry about standing close to a family member, friends or a  customer in line at the supermarket; hugging relatives, traveling to visit love ones; walking freely on a crowded sidewalk; eating in a restaurant; attending a wedding ; or praying in a synagogue with a minyan – all now being eclipsed by a physical and emotional tightrope of forbearance, emotion and safety concerns.

“If only I knew then what I know now”, I would have told more family members more often and with greater intensity that I love them and miss them terribly; I would have thought twice before being judgmental of others; I would have been more giving, more appreciative, tolerant and respectful of the frailty of our human condition; and I would have appreciated more  the social, emotional, religious and physical freedom which we all enjoyed and took so much for granted.

It’s not that we disregarded these important aspects of our lives or that we were insensitive to these opportunities in the past. Its just that we took them all for granted.

And finally, if I only knew then what I know now, I would have been less critical of other people’s actions – maybe more tolerant and more understanding.

Yes, twenty-twenty hindsight is a powerful and profound concept…..and yes, there have been horrendous global lessons, experiences and events throughout history from which we need to learn and appreciate.

I once asked a holocaust survivor on one of our communal trips to Auschwitz – “Moshe, how are you feeling?” He looked at me straight in the eye and said “Chaim, everyday I wake up,  and I see a bright ray of sunshine, its a good day”.

During these days of mourning, immediately prior to Tisha B’Av, we are once again reminded of our people’s past tragedies, trials and tribulations. We reflect upon the daunting events in Jewish history which destroyed families, communities and counties. The destruction of the  first and second Beit Hamikdash, the persecution and murder of our families, close to 6 million Jewish brothers and sisters; and the current resurgence and ruthless ebb and flow of anti-antisemitism throughout the world, are just several of the harsh realities we have lived through and are currently experiencing.

As we know, there are no simple or complex explanations for these tragedies in Jewish history…nor can we say with any degree of certainty why the world is once again in a most fragile state of flux and uncertainty.

At best, we need to remember that GD runs the world; and only GD will decide when and where this Pandemic will be abated. It is however in our power to determine how we respond individually and communally to this crisis.

Creating and inspiring a positive mindset during this trying time of crisis is easier said than done. But, we also know that its in our power to inspire positive  emotions and energy through positivity, hope and promise.

Although we may never totally return to the way we were living in January 2020, with GD’s oversight, this Pandemic will end and we will adapt and adjust to a life of vaccines and other innovations. But, above all we will always remember that the phrase “if only I knew then what I know now” is a concept that will help mold and shape our survival, our resolve , our values and our future.

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is currently Principal of the Hebrew Academy Community Day School in Margate FL and Executive Coach and Consultant. He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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