Inspirational /Motivational Speaker
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Overcoming Loneliness

A Rabbi said: “The way we usually approach loneliness is mostly by avoiding it, because we have all seen lonely people sitting next to other lonely people on lonely park benches, and they are the people we would least like to be. So we shy away from the subject altogether because in our idealized, packaged version of healthy adjustment, there is no room for loneliness, not even a little bit.”

The author Thomas Wolfe wrote in an essay entitled “Loneliness,” “that far from being a rare and curious phenomenon,” loneliness “is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”

How sad that in the digital age the more we are connected to everything – the more we feel detached, isolated and separated. And we stare at our phones and hide behind the digital screens.
How often to I pass a bunch of teenagers sitting on the steps and not looking at each other or talking to their friends right there next to them.

“How is this a life?” asks a 30-something blogger.

It’s not a life, actually. We cannot spend our days hunched over a screen forging a sense of human interaction. This is not what we are made for. I can guarantee all your best memories live within the moments with others.

Recently, a congregant of mine suffered a loss and only found out about their bereavement when I happened to go on Facebook. I wrote to my Temple families and sermonized pleading with them to at least call me and the people close to them to hear our voices and let us go in person to comfort them.

The blogger Jamie Varon asked perceptively, “When you look back on your life will you be happy about how much you binged on Netflix? Will you be happy about the graveyard of plans you let fall by the wayside? Will you be happy when you are surrounded by no one because we’ve all pushed each other away?”

That’s an excerpt from her essay entitled, “This is the New Loneliness.” A New Loneliness has seized a new generation.

And maybe, when we ditch our phones and stop surfing and posting and liking, we should ask ourselves: why?
My wedding couple tell me that they met the old fashioned way because online dating – searching for suitable people all looking anonymously – only intensified their loneliness.

Now loneliness is viewed as a public health issue because researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to cognitive decline.

A Rabbi asks us to examine ourselves honestly. How much loneliness have I brought upon myself through narcissism and a lack of self-awareness? Why not set aside your loneliness by doing something for someone else.

Anyone who serves at a homeless shelter, or tutors disadvantaged kids, or volunteers at a hospital, knows this.

From time to time, we are all lost and lonely in this impersonal world. So make real friends and reach out to the strangers and the estranged. And find your path in life together.

Extremely Unrandom Acts of Kindness

Think for a moment, of a time in your life, when you felt pretty low, Maybe you were breaking up with someone. Maybe someone you love was sick. Or maybe you lost someone or something that meant a lot to you. What did it feel like when someone offered you kindness. What did that do for your spirits?

We live in a world that values kindness. A search on Google for “random acts of kindness” will produce thousands of results. Random acts of kindness are in life insurance commercials and something positive to end the Evening News on television. The homeless person who spends his last dollar to help a friend in need. The rich man who leaves his company to serve meals in a homeless shelter.

Random acts of kindness make us feel really good as they should. But the thing about a random act of kindness is that as it’s name suggests …just random. The person who receives it has to rely on a whim. Either you are feeling incredibly grateful one day or your feeling very guilty on another day. As someone has said, they make the world more accidentally beautiful. But they are unpredictable, unexpected, and surprising.

Our challenge is that a person’s need for kindness is always there and not surprising. And the really giving act means that we are challenged to remove randomness from the equation and replace it with consistency.

So why not do something above and beyond and let’s call it an extremely unrandom act of kindness.

Extremely unrandom acts of kindness do not rely on your feeling of gratitude or your need to get rid of some guilt. Extremely unrandom acts of kindness depends on the resolve to reach out to others in our lives without depending on a mood. Our partners, our children, our parents and grandparents, and the strangers we encounter.
A colleague has spoken about where we can practice this. In our own homes: Is the language harsh and angry when they walk in the door or do we meet them with a smile? Is our judgement of their choices sarcastic or do we offer them encouragement and tell them we believe in them? With our friends do we let their loneliness make us uncomfortable or do we reach out. Do we look through people or do we stand up for them when others are bullying them. Do we notice their tears and ask what’s going on?

So what if we removed randomness from the equation and replaced it with being consistent? Was I kind today? Who in my world needs me?

Let kindness explode from our hearts. Become unbearably predictable and terribly boring in our unrandom acts of kindness so that not one person feels isolated. @TheRunningRabbi (Click to Tweet!)
And may we each be overflowing with the goodness of extremely unrandom acts of kindness.

Doing the Right Thing

A rabbi has taught that doing the right thing is a prized religious value. And recently, science has aligned with God,

Doing the right thing, the good thing, the decent thing, turns out to be good for the do-er as well. Ariana Huffngton quotes the philosopher Seneca, “No one can live happily who has regard for themselves alone.” That is the hypothesis and two thousand years later, the evidence is now coming in.

Studies demonstrate that those who volunteer feel healthier, less stressed, more joyful, and better able to connect with others. Older volunteers have less depression, a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, and a stronger sense of purpose in their later years. And a stronger sense of purpose also strengthens immune functions – volunteers may very well live longer.

Something good is happening here. Doing good for others is good for ourselves. The Book of Proverbs teaches: one who runs to do just and kind deeds; such a person achieves well-being and an increased sense of goodness and self-worth.
Looking for the model righteous person on the internet is an interesting search. If you want to learn foe righteous people in America, look for them under “humanitarian.” These are the people people out there on the front lines, who really have a passion for a cause, and want to do something meaningful and significant.

There is a legend in Jewish folklore about 36 righteous people who live somewhere on this earth at any moment. They don’t know who they are, and we don’t know who they are. But because of them the world manages to survive.

It is a great legend. Because we can all use one of the 36 every now and then. And you never know who it might be. So think about it. Do you know one? Could you be one?

To quote the rabbi “As we think of our shortcomings may we be inspired by the great ones, the righteous ones, who help so many to brighten their world and their future, and who light the way for you and me with a brilliant flame of impassioned concern that can’t help but leave its mark of goodness and hope upon us all.”