November 22, 2011

Look up...there are stars in the sky.

"They say there's a chance of frost."
"Can you believe the Penguins beat the Islanders 5-0?"
"Just look at her in that slinky body suit."

Small talk. Everyone does it. But what are we really saying? Are we filling time? Blotting empty space?

Here in Israel, there's heated discussion about whether Beitar or Maccabi will come out winning the soccer championship and a precise measuring of Lake Kinneret's depth after each rainfall. And now, with the arrival of not-so-chilly winter days, every teenager must wear sheepskin fleece boots... Why? Because everyone else has a pair. Ugg! (Ask any Canadian about what real cold is and they will go on about how their red, chafed toes feel after walking through puddles of semi-frozen slush.)

Here in Israel, there are also many opportunities to hear inspiring words. Had a bad day? Need to reframe? You don't have to go far to hear amazing individuals tell incredibly valiant stories. I had such an opportunity on Sunday night. Batya Berg was in Ra'anana to tell over her life story. It was a story of the Holocaust, of poverty, of sickness and of persecution in Stalin's Russia.

But she was not here to tell us about suffering or sadness. On the contrary. She was here to teach us how to be happy and to see goodness in each moment and every mishap. You can read Batya's life story here. I will simply share two beautiful images she placed in my mind.

One is of living in a tiny, dank, apartment in Kiev, some 15 steps below ground. A dreary window revealed the sidewalk above and young Batya's view was of boots and shoes rushing by all day. She mentioned this to her father who said, "Yes, you are right. But when I look up, I see stars in the sky."

One other image is of poor Batya crying. Her family shared one pair of boots. Her father would go out to pray wearing the boots, then rush home so Batya could go to school, her feet swimming in the enormous boots. She would then run home so her mother could get bread, the only food the family ate.

One day, as little Batya was rushing home, she stepped on a nail. It tore a gaping hole in the sole of the boot. In tears, Batya told her father what happened. When he asked her why she was not happy, the confused little girl looked up at her smiling father. He explained. "You should be joyful that you have feet and can wear boots."

May we have the ability to see goodness in sorrow and to turn our moments in opportunities for hearing wisdom and sharing words of inspiration.

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