by Jeffrey Hoos Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven President
Our community is important to all of us. We cannot survive by ourselves. It would be pretty lonely and most of us would be very unhappy. Just as we have to nurture our immediate family, we have take care of and nurture our Jewish family as well.
There are times that I have to be reminded and revisit why community work is so important. Why do we need community and why do we have to help the less fortunate in our community? There is a poem by John Steinbeck I would like to share. I was a zoology major before going to dental school, so, to my friends who studied the written word (you know who you are) please go easy on me with my interpretation.
THE END OF LIFE IS NOW NOT SO TERRIBLY FAR AWAY
by John Steinbeck
YOU CAN SEE IT THE WAY YOU SEE THE FINISHING LINE
(you know the end is coming but there is more work to do)
WHEN YOU COME INTO THE STRETCH AND YOU SAY,
HAVE I WORKED ENOUGH?
HAVE I EATEN ENOUGH?
HAVE I LOVED ENOUGH?
(towards the end of you life, you wonder, did I do enough for my work, my self and for my family and there may not be enough time because the finishing line is coming up)
ALL OF THESE, OF COURSE, ARE THE FOUNDATIONS OF MAN’S GREATEST CURSE, THE PERHAPS HIS GREATEST GLORY?
(the curse of time and yet we know we have to work hard)
WHAT HAS MY LIFE MEANT SO FAR?
(looking back what have I done to give my life meaning)
WHAT CAN IT MEAN IN THE TIME LEFT TO ME?
(do I have time to create meaning or do good for others)
AND NOW WE COME TO THE WICKED POISON DART.
(we have to face the real truth if we can tell ourselves the truth)
WHAT HAVE I CONTRIBUTED TO THE GREAT LEDGER?
(I had the chance and truth be told, what did I do)
WHAT AM I WORTH?
(What have I done, that is worthwhile)
AND THIS ISN’T VANITY OR AMBITION.
(this is needs to be introspective and is for a person to decide for themselves personally)
MEN SEEM TO BE BORN WITH A DEBT THE CAN NEVER PAY NO MATTER HOW HARD THEY TRY!
(Steinbeck wants to tell us what we all know…….we have a debt to many people and some people we can not remember and no matter what we do, we can not thank them enough or repay them)
IT PILES UP AHEAD OF THEM.
(before you know it, time runs out and there are so many we have not thanked along the way and the debt accumulates)
MAN OWES SOMETHING TO MAN.
(we are not in this community alone and we need to help each other to survive and move to a better place)
IF HE IGNORES THE DEBT IT POISONS HIM, AND
IF HE TRIES TO MAKE PAYMENTS THE DEBT ONLY
INCREASE, AND THE QUALITY OF HIS GIFT: (increases? I know this is poetry, maybe it is meant to be increase)
IS THE MEASURE OF THE MAN”
(if a person does not understand they have a debt or an obligation to help others, they become isolated, and this is destructive. The harder the person tries to make community better, we realize there is so much to do. BUT the harder we try and more we do……….That is the reward. One can look back and say: “we tried to make it better and that is the reward.) It is not our job to finish the work, it is our job to continue the work of others and build upon it.