Giggles and love! That’s what I’m feeling right now. I’ve always had this extra level of energy and happiness that most people don’t experience, but it’s been conspicuously absent lately. Not so on my trip to New York last week!
I was invited to present Faces of Israel at Yeshiva University in Manhattan and extended my ticket through the weekend to see friends and family. The plane ride was quick, lovely and allowed me to churn out writing for my crazy new project (which you’ll hear about at a later point).
I had recently applied for an innovative grant that would fund an education outreach tour to visit rural Jewish communities this summer by RV… and I was selected as a finalist! I was thrilled to hear the news and – as soon as my plane touched down at JFK – I rushed straight to the foundation’s office to say hello and drop off a DVD for the committee. (They were expecting me.)
Now here is where the title of the post comes in: I got off the subway at Times Square and was amazed by the razzle and dazzle of all the lights and the individuals walking around the plaza in full Disney attire. (My wide-eyed tourist admiration was a reminder that it had been a long time since I lived in New York!) But I had a mission at hand and the foundation office would only be open for ten more minutes! I rushed down the street, into the building and up the elevator to successfully deliver the film with just moments to spare.
Upon exiting the foundation office, I noticed that their immediate neighbor was a major Jewish publication. As in one of the most widely-read Jewish newspapers in the country. As in the newspaper that I had contacted two weeks ago about my new project and hadn’t heard back from. I thought: Hmm, I don’t have an appointment. They’re not expecting me. I can’t just walk in there.
So… I gathered up my chutzpah and walked on in! I introduced myself, one of the senior folks obligingly came out to the lobby to meet me and what ensued was magical. We chit-chatted for a few minutes – me riding on one of my energy highs from having made it to the foundation office in time and he informing me that the newspaper was on backlog from the holidays and wouldn’t be able to feature a piece on me for several weeks.
I turned to leave when he asked me what I was up to in life. A few sentences in and I could tell that the wheels had started turning in his head. But before he could ask me another question, I decided to level the playing field.
“I want to know you!”, I said. “Well, what do you want to know – where I grew up?”, he replied. I thought for a moment and then asked “What are you passionate about and when was the last time you were outside your comfort zone?”
Then came the moment of truth. After a brief hesitation and despite it being almost 5 pm, he looked up, took a deep breath and said “You know what! Just come back to the office and we’ll talk now.” And that was his Eliyahu moment*.
We spent the next hour and a half developing what I can only call a (platonic) soul connection. We spoke of living consciously, making the best of our time on earth, pushing boundaries and channeling life. I shared my passion and vibrancy – helping him rekindle his own – and together we hacked his life by identifying new opportunities and 30 day challenges that he could explore. I have this strange feeling that I was meant to make my appointment, meant to see The Jewish publication’s sign and meant to meet him on that day… and I did a half hour interview for my new project while there!
I’d like to share an idea that I found particularly beautiful. This lovely man who was more than twice my age mused:
Sometimes I imagine the following scenario. It’s ten years from now and – at 70 years old with all of the health challenges and realities that 70 might bring – I am given the opportunity to go back ten years and experience youth of a different sort by getting a second chance at being 60. Only this isn’t a dream and I am 60 now with this magical opportunity presented to me. How am I going to use it?
I was sparking off of this experience for days and took it with me to the ROI reunion later that evening. It was wonderful to see friends from the conference, and I love the energy that is created when you bring all of these motivated people together to recapture some of the spirit of the summer.
After offering a quick Manhattan sidewalk hooping lesson to my friends, I hopped a train uptown to Yeshiva University. Though the turnout was limited to a couple hundred (less than expected) since Gilad Shalit had spoken on campus the night before, my speech was nevertheless interrupted by applause when I explained how I revamped my life and encouraged the students to live their passions. And a couple of Israelis told me that this was the best program that Israel Club has ever done. Cool!
I was serenaded twice that evening – once by an intriguing former baseball player, singer-song writer turned religious YU student and once from my theater-aspiring childhood friend CB. Other highlights included quality time with my best pal Shira, evening hangs with Yair’s parents and a day of adventuring on the Hudson with my mom and Dad.
I felt so very grounded and energized being back in my home community, and only hope to carry that spirit back with me to Austin. Until then, I offer you divine providence, GIGGLES AND LOVE!
*Eliyahu (Elijah) was a prophet and mystical figure in Judaism. Traditional stories have him appear when people most need him, but in disguise.
posted by ayo