7 Tishrei 5781 / Friday, September 25, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
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The Right Way    

The Right Way

How easy it is to become disheartened when we’ve worked so hard on something like a negative character trait and yet things still appear to be such a mess...


My dad is Italian and my mom is Scott-Irish. Based on that perspective alone, to say I have a bit of a stubborn streak would be putting it mildly. I was also raised to be independent and practical but was given a strong sense of the importance and value of dreaming and reaching for [beyond] the stars.
These concepts my parents instilled gave me the basis for truly believing that nothing is impossible and I’m stubborn enough to hold onto that belief.
Although these traits have been a huge blessing to me, I’m sure my parents paid a high price for encouraging and fostering them in me since I was an (overly) confident and stubborn youth.
One of my Dad’s very favorite stories to tell is of him having a discussion with me when I was quite young. He told me how to do something, I said I was going to do it another way. He said no, do it this way and I responded (in all of my pre-teen somewhat snarky wisdom I’m sure) with “Dad, there is more than one right way to do things!”
I do still believe that in statement though with a slight modification. My right way may not be anyone else’s right way, and that’s okay.
My family lives on a small piece of land I call our farm… although our only livestock is only 6 hens we raised from chicks this spring together with the neighbor’s sheep that come through our shared fence to help keep our grass down.
My husband and I have been contemplating the sloped ground leading to the chicken coop and the inevitable muddy conditions this winter would bring. From our analysis the muddiest area would be in the same place where we would need to stand to gather eggs each day.
The right way to fix this situation would require quite a bit of money, a delivery of a dump truck full of gravel, a lot of 1700# concrete blocks, borrowing a tractor, and many days of work over several weeks. The quick way to deal with it would be to dump a yard of gravel right by the chicken coop, spread it out and go with it as-is this winter… putting the “right way to fix it” on next year’s improvement list.
We opted for the quick way and brought home a yard of gravel in our little trailer. Armed with a wheel barrow and shovels we stared at the situation.  The quick way would patch the situation and make it work for now. But the truth is it wasn’t the right way … it wasn’t our right way. So, we borrowed the tractor and dug into the (still ongoing) project.
As I look at the project now in its half-finished state, it isn’t pretty. The ground is torn up and raw, the gravel has been compacted into a path and we are waiting on the concrete blocks. The grass around the project is flattened with tractor tracks pressed into the soft earth. The whole area is a mess and looks much worse (and more muddy!) than when we started. But here’s the thing, we are not disheartened about its current state because we have a clear vision of what the completed outcome will be. Its current state is actually exciting because we can see the change, see how far we’ve come and how much work we’ve put in. We know we are making progress every time we work on it.
The whole project made me think about the spiritual “projects” we are all working on. How easy it is to become disheartened when we’ve worked so hard on something like a negative character trait and yet things still appear to be such a mess. We still exhibit the trait, perhaps at times the trait even shows up even worse than before we started. Thoughts of throwing in the towel, or even, G-d forbid, thinking that things were better off and “prettier” before you started working on yourself are easily entertained.
We each have our own spiritual paths, our own right way of getting to where Hashem is leading. The time to really invest our time and energy in following those paths is right now, today. Putting it on next year’s improvement list won’t work and shortcuts won’t work – they may even cause us more work in the end.
When you are mired down in the heavy work, in the not so pretty work, in the work you would rather throw some gravel on and deal with later – remember to be stubborn enough to know without a doubt that Hashem loves you and that this process is all for the best - and be a dreamer enough to know that the beautiful outcome will be so worth the work.
* * *
Jennifer invites you to participate in a regularly held Noahide on-line study group that reviews the garden series books of Rabbi Arush. You can contact her at jenniferjwoodward@gmail.com for dates and times.

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