By Ariel Natan Dori
After a recent appointment at an office near Northwell Health, formerly known as LIJ, I decided to take my daily walk in the area around the hospital (wearing a Fitbit leaves me no choice). Going for walks contribute to my exercise regimen, but this particular one was necessary to clear my head. This Thanksgiving week, with all the gratitude and appreciation for everything I have, brought with it new challenges that I needed to process and plan for, and walking often helps me with that process.
Generally, when I head out for long walks, I don’t necessarily know the path I will take when I begin, and kinda just go where the wind takes me. This particular day, being near a hospital setting, I had a feeling this walk would bring with it more emotional intensity, but not necessarily the way I initially thought.
I started off going around the residential part of the area. That was nice and peaceful. The emotions part came when I found myself approaching the hospital grounds. I entered by the entrance to the main hospital. I noticed signs that directed people to specific departments, many of which ended with the words “ology.” I thought of less than a handful of times when I had to take a couple of my children there for very different reasons, none of which mattered to either of them except for the one thing they agreed on which was each of them not wanting to be there. One particular sign that stuck with me read “Oncology Department.” I couldn’t help but think of what I would observe if I were to walk in: the presence of people, specifically children, with outer normalcy and simultaneous inner terror, humbling me.
Just a few steps later, I find myself approaching the Katz Women’s hospital. I started to think of my children, many of whom were on my mind that week for various reasons, yet all of whom were born in that very building. Memories of my wife and I walking out for the very first time with each of them began flooding my psyche. The thoughts I had, the feelings I felt, the potential I imagined, and the opportunities, excited me. The absolute purity, innocence, and love not just for them, but for myself who happened to be born in LIJ too. Boy did that bring back some really amazing memories that certainly kept me going for much of the rest of my walk. Until that is, I hit the pediatric emergency room. The recent memories of me being told by a pediatrician that I need to take my daughter there straight from her office, to ensure no further issues with uncertain findings from an otherwise routine matter, brought back feelings of fear and uneasiness. I realized that this was going to be my last stop before heading back to my car. So I stopped, took a long glance, and snapped a picture for my own personal humility reasons.
I’ve taken my share of walks lately, but this particular one hit me in a place I often forget exists. What were my findings?
Life happens, it always does. Whether amazing, good, plain, bad, or brutally ugly, the only direction is through. At this point for me, it’s not about anything more than simply experiencing things the way they are, and life the way it is. Some of them will feel great, and some will feel quite lousy. But ultimately, all categories will occur in one form or another and the only way through it in sanity is to “trust the process.” Why don’t I say “trust in Hashem”? Because the concept of a perfect being who is all knowing, loving, and powerful may or may not work for everyone at certain times. Am I suggesting that there is no G-d? Chas v’shalom. I AM suggesting that we all go through our own personal stages of emunah. And I think for the times when Joe struggles with the concept of a G-d in his life, Tom guaranteeing him that Hashem is here, there, and everywhere with the resolution to his struggles being contingent on his belief that Hashem will provide, may not work for him at that very moment. Nor does it really help Joe “find Him.” Yet within the process, we will always find what we are looking for in due time, His time.
From the work I have done and the people I have met, I have heard the concept of addicts having to come to “their own enlightened self-interest” before they can begin a successful recovery process. That means that they must wholeheartedly come to the realization that they are powerless over their drug of choice before they begin the process of living a life they never dreamed possible, and that must happen TO them and BY them. And Tom, however well-intentioned he might be, must stand back and allow Joe to reach and experience that revelation himself.
I have always sensed an unwritten disagreement within the Jewish community about whether or not Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated by Jews, with the primary debate having to do with the idea that Jews should be thankful every day, and not have a designated day of the year for gratitude. Well here’s the question I would suggest we individually pose to ourselves before taking sides: am I grateful? Do I wake up each morning and thank Hashem that I am alive, excited to start a brand new day that offers me such potential, blessing, and hope? Do I write a daily gratitude list, consistently adding items to it? If there are generally more than one or two “no’s” to any given question, then may I suggest having a day designated for stopping to appreciate the blessings we do have in our lives that are generally overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of the rest of the year, may be a great starting point that can be used to ENHANCE our Yiddishkeit? Or we can take a walk through hospital grounds to appreciate our blessings. Either way works for me.
Happy post turkey day and happy pre-chicken day (Good Shabbos)!