Monday, January 14, 2008

The Gift of 'Tude

So, here I am on the eve of my (gulp) thirty-eighth birthday. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s just another birthday and not a big deal. On the other hand, time continues to pass and I have so much I want to do. I’m afraid that when I finally decide those things I really want or want to do, I’ll be too old and/or inform to make them happen.

But I come back to the kids, and I can’t help but be pleased and grateful. Hannah and Emily are just so wonderful, and though I know I have many improvements to make as a parent, I feel confident that they will grow up just fine.

I’ve been thinking these last few days that morality, real day-to-day morality, comes down only to a few simple principles, chief of which are gratitude and truthfulness. Being thankful, I realized, is essential. Good people appreciate what they have and what is given to them. Gratitude also seems tied to happiness. Refraining from telling lies also seems important, not least because it never burdens one. People who tell even small untruths often seem heavy with the responsibility of carrying these statements around with them. Lies don’t go away.

In the Pirkei Avot, Yehoshuah ben Perachya is attributed to the following statement: “Make for yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend; and judge every person favorably.” At the risk of being off-base, being grateful makes everyone one’s teacher, and truthfulness acquires friends for one. The third point, which I had not really factored in my scheme, considers that one should be proactively charitable in one’s view of all others. It’s kind of two parts behavior and one part attitude.

Maybe my gift to myself this year is the gift of judging every person favorably. It should be.

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