In the blink of an eye

Working, JFNA General Assembly, 2016

Time. Many of us feel there aren’t enough hours in a day to complete everything on our To-Do list, fit in some exercise, read, complete work or school assignments, or take a vacation. We feel time-poor and are stressed, overwhelmed, and rushed. 

We may also have the feeling that time is quickly passing. Time Flies is an idiom that is often shared and it definitely feels that way, especially for those of us that are into our second half of life. I know I feel that way. When going through the day-to-day, it may feel as if the days are dragging and endless. Especially if one has small children. Why is it that 24 hours can feel like 72 with a screaming, precocious child?  Yet, when your child’s birthday comes around, it feels like the years flew by. Your child turns ten and you feel like he was just born last year. He graduates high school and you feel like he graduated kindergarten yesterday. He goes off to college and you remember the first day of pre-school and the tears (probably yours, not his!). He graduates university and relocates to another city — when did this happen?! In the blink of an eye, the years go by.

Your kids leave the nest to start their own lives and you reflect on your life. Was I a good parent? Did I help prepare my kids for life’s ups and downs? Did I impart wisdom and the necessary tools to navigate difficult situations? Will they be resilient human beings? Was I a good role model? How am I leading my life? Am I living my values? Am I spending my days in the best possible way? Am I creating positive change in the world? Am I being of service to others? So many questions.

Reflecting, looking at areas for self-improvement, thinking about how I can spread light in this world, looking back at past experiences and lessons learned, as well as where I am heading are topics that I have devoted a lot of time contemplating. Especially this past year with the pandemic where I have been spending the majority of my time at home on my own. Even when my kids were home for a four-month stretch, all the changes in the world and so much uncertainty led to a lot of thinking about so many different things, giving me the impetus to spend more time working on myself and deepening my gratitude.

This year, I am celebrating my 18th work anniversary. I cannot believe it — 18 years!! Time sure does fly. How did this happen? It seems like it was just a short time ago that I started my first day of work at the federation. 

I have been working in the Jewish community for 18 years. It wasn’t my plan; I didn’t study Jewish communal work in school and it wasn’t a career aspiration. It just happened. 

I moved to Miami 18 years ago after living in Israel for four years. Returning to the US, my family settled in Miami and I found a position at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Little did I know that 18 years later I would still be employed by the same organization, albeit in a different role than when I started. I thought I would be there for a few years, then move on to something else.

18 is significant in Jewish tradition and is considered a special number. The numeric meaning of the word Chai in Hebrew is 18. Chai in Hebrew means life. Chai is mentioned a few times in the Bible and is linked to text in the Kabbalah (Jewish mystical tradition). Donations are often made in increments of 18: $18, $36, $180, $1,800, etc., symbolically giving the gift of life or luck. In the past few decades, the symbol of Chai has taken on the significance of an amulet. 

I love my work. I love that I wake up every day knowing that I am doing my part in helping to repair the world. I love that I get to spend time with colleagues that are talented, dedicated, and share mutual values. I love that I get to work with passionate volunteers and community leaders that care so deeply about others that not only do they give of their financial resources, but they give of their time, an extremely important commodity. 

My work has become a big part of my identity and my family life. My kids grew up knowing that we pack food packages and make deliveries for those in need before Rosh Hashana, Thanksgiving, and Passover. That every Super Sunday we would go to the federation and make phone calls to raise money for the annual campaign so those in need would have their most basic needs met. That when I worked late, it was for a reason. That we would often have guests for Shabbat dinner and that the conversation would always veer towards discussions about some aspect of my work, whether it was some amazing program we are supporting, or an inspiring person that I heard speak at an event, or a trip to Israel where I was able to learn more about the needs of the Ethiopian-Israeli community or about the impactful work helping marginalized women. That when it was time to take a family trip to Israel, we would be going to Yerucham, Miami’s partnership city, and spending the day visiting different projects. They know how meaningful I find my work and how much I enjoy it.

So, when reflecting on the latter part of my life, especially these past 18 years which seem to have whizzed by, and thinking about whether I did a good job raising my kids, I let out a huge sigh. A sigh of acceptance that I did the best that I could, of gratitude that my day-to-day life is full of meaning, and of pleasure in having the opportunity to partner with so many wonderful people who are making an impact.

Who knows where I will be in 18 years. I can only hope that the next 18 years will be as meaningful as the past 18 years. 

 L’Chaim — To Life!

About the Author
Dahlia Bendavid believes in making the world a better place and helps makes this possible by working in the Jewish community as the Director of the Israel and Overseas Department at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Dahlia grew up in NY and now lives in Miami. Dahlia is the proud mom of two adult children, Ariel and Noam.
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