What now seems like a lifetime ago, David and I were working on our first documentary together. It was called Embracing Judaism: Reaching In, Reaching Out, Reaching Up. (Don’t look at me, I had nothing to do with the title—that’s all I was given and asked to create a documentary about it!) Anyway, creating the documentary was a great experience for us—we met and interviewed absolutely super people including Rabbi Paula Mack Drill (she wasn’t a rabbi back then—I told you it was eons ago) Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter and Rabbi Woznica among others. And during Rabbi Woznica’s interview, he said the following:
People aren’t so terrific necessarily, by nature. That’s why there are 613 commandments, which tell us how to, how to be good. Children may not be so terrific by nature, so the tradition says: listen that we accept human nature, and now we’re gonna create a good human being. We’ll do all we can to create decency and goodness.
I can’t tell you why, but that has stayed with David and me for now almost 17 years. And just last year, although I hadn’t spoken to him in over a decade, I tracked Rabbi Woznica down (he moved from NY to Los Angeles) and called him. He took the call immediately, delighted to hear from me. I told him that I was calling because I thought about what he said every day, that, at heart, people aren’t so terrific and that we need rules to keep us on the straight and narrow. That these thoughts had such an impact on me and I wanted him to know that. I could tell he was absolutely thrilled – to think that someone was walking around and that you had made such an impact…!
So now fast forward, dateline present day. Coming back from a meeting, I see a student waiting outside my office. As I get closer, she starts beaming at me, the biggest most beautiful smile on her face. I smile back, though honestly, although she looks familiar, I have no idea who she is. Inviting her in, she proceeds to tell me that I had advised her years ago and told her exactly what to do to obtain the job she dreamed of. Now 6 years later, with a bevy of television internships under her belt, she was graduating from Purchase and starting to work at a great job at VHI. She says she stopped by to tell me how grateful she was and how if it weren’t for me and my colleague-in-crime Isabel, (who figured out the best college to transfer to and helped her with the admissions process) she wouldn’t be where she is.
So I am so grateful to all the people who have said or done things that have stayed in my mind, caused me to think, rethink and reflect. I am grateful to all the people who have made me smile and feel loved long after the words they said, or gift they gave, or act of “loving kindness” seemingly faded from memory. But I also am grateful to those people who have found value in what I have said or my point of view. And I am grateful to those who have the courage, fortitude, moxie ? to come and tell me about my impact on them. The “sleepers” of my life who actually say, “What you said, I have never forgotten,” or, “What you did” (some small thing that I didn’t even know would mean anything) made all the difference.” To all of you, please know, that every time I think of you, I have a smile on my face, a bounce in my walk and a heart full of gratitude.