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We need our family and friends


Yom Kippur Message – 5778

Too much suffering and death ushered in this New Year, 5778. First, a business friend lost his 47 year old wife after a long battle with cancer. Then, another friend’s granddaughters lost their father to a fiery car accident on a Friday and on Sunday our friend and accountant’s husband, who was successfully recovering from bleeding ulcer surgery, apparently threw a clot in his lungs and died suddenly. This week my long-time friend lost his sister, whom I’ve known since we were kids.

Of course, the hurricanes and earthquakes killed many people we didn’t know personally. All these deaths highlight the randomness of life. We plan and God laughs, goes the phrase. Sometimes, even God must cry.

Many of us turn to family and friends for solace. Yet, we hear of so many families with family members who don’t speak to each other and friends who will have nothing to do with so and so. I guess I’m lucky. My immediate family talks to me and I do have some friends I can rely on. However, over the years I have alienated both family and friends. Sometimes, I have been really surprised by what caused the alienation. Sometimes, when they told me why, I saw it clearly from their point of view. Sometimes, I didn’t need to be told why. I know how easy it can be to offend even if that is not your intention.

It started when I was 10 years old. I got the measles, ran around the house like a banshee and came down with pneumonia. Hospital treatment must have been the cause for my coming down with hepatitis less than two months later. There I was, laid up in bed, turning a little yellow, eating lots of bland rice, watching lots of TV in my bedroom on the new little television set my parents had acquired for their sick boy. Then, Abe, a neighborhood friend, visited and I mentioned that I hadn’t seen nor heard from David, whom I considered a very close friend.

Abe told me that David had moved to Sao Paulo. I was stunned that someone I considered a very good friend, had left sick me lying in bed, without a single word of good-bye. When I shared my feelings with Abe, he said that David didn’t like me because I was a spendthrift. While I never considered myself to be a spendthrift, certainly not at 10 years of age, I wondered why that perceived trait made someone I considered a friend into a stranger?

Over the years, I’ve had lots to wonder about. I’ve heard from family and friends about how my actions were often perceived negatively; how something I did to them was traumatizing. At the time, I didn’t feel their trauma, didn’t think that what I was doing could be traumatizing. Perhaps I didn’t care enough about how they were feeling.

Sometimes, I don’t even know what I did to offend, even though I ask. Some “friends” would rather write me off than share the offense with me. Sometimes, I dared to think of myself when I loaned them money and this offended them. How could I ask for signed guarantees or some upside if their deal worked out. What kind of unfeeling, sometime friend was I?

Of course, there were times, when they did share. Most of those times, I found it easy to understand how they felt. Throwing someone out of a car in a minority neighborhood and yelling racial slurs out the window was simply not funny to them. How about not telling a friend that something they were doing for me had the potential to embarrass them? Clearly, I was thinking only about number one… me. Sometimes, I just embarrassed someone in public, like my cousin who was not feeling the humor and doesn’t speak to me anymore.

I’ve learned a lot about my potentially disastrous behavior from those examples. I know that knowledge of these errors in my judgment has taught me a lot.

On the other hand, suddenly stopping to seeing us and have any further contact because my wife could not make it to our “friends’” daughter’s wedding shower, doesn’t resonate with me. Could it have been something else? I guess so.

How about the friend I nominated for a job with my company but told him that he would be hired and managed by others? When he was eventually terminated by those others, I was written off his friend list.

I still have some friends. I wish I could see them more often… but I’m not good about calling them or keeping in touch regularly. Yet, I know and I believe they know, that if they needed me or I needed them, we’d be there for each other, even if that meant jumping on a plane and traveling thousands of miles or leaving work in the middle of the day or doing whatever it took to help. Am I right? I know it applies to me and hope it applies to them.

So, now we approach Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. Will you let me atone, even for something I did that may have seemed cruel? I didn’t do it to be cruel.
Will you forgive me, even though I will probably do something similar again sometime? For example, I thought I’d learned to keep my mouth mostly shut at organizational Board meetings… but just a few weeks ago, I was surprised when a vote was being ignored. I ended up opening my big mouth. I’d guess that some people took offense to my calling the vote-taking “a farce…” oops!

I haven’t thrown anyone out of a car “for fun,” since I was a teenager. But sometimes, I do something I’m not aware of doing or blurt out something inappropriate. I’ll never be perfect. So, asking for forgiveness sometimes results in an unusual reaction… people wonder what it is I did do to them. They actually ask me what I did. Well, there may a particular occasion in which I know what I did, when I did it and to whom it was done. Mostly, however, the request for forgiveness is a “just in case.”

I don’t want to lose any more friends. More importantly, I want my friends to think of me like I think of the friends I cherish. In any case, please forgive my offenses. If you can share your complaint, it can be helpful in my avoiding more of the same.

I forgive you “just in case.” May we all enter a year in which we are lucky enough to have good health, lots of people who love us and all the things that bring happiness to each of us.

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