Last weekend, Number Two was Bar Mitzvah’d. Towards the end of the service, Number One, my wife and I, all had the opportunity to individually address Number Two and the 250 or so people in attendance. I took the podium after they both finished. As the audience was enjoying my intentionally humorous dialogue, it was abruptly interrupted by something just short of wrestling match, described by one guest as “a refreshing and honest public display of family dysfunction”. Number Two turned off my microphone. Number One hijacked my “flowchart”. And on a live mic, my wife was insisting that my talk was too long. As a consequence, I only got to present the funny stuff, which while enjoyable to the audience, left me a bit unfulfilled.
So this past Saturday night, at a fund raiser, I was given the opportunity to finish my speech. I began by giving the audience the back-story that I provided above. Then I delivered the ending, and as I always prefer to speak unscripted and spontaneously, this is approximately what I said:
“It doesn’t matter what your job is, how much money you make or how much money is in your bank account. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive, how big your house is or what town you live in. It doesn’t matter what your clothes look like or what the labels inside them say. Life by itself is essentially pointless. It is up to you to give it meaning. And all the people we care about, those that are with us today and those that are absent, all our family, all of our friends and our entire community; they are why we are here. We give meaning to each other’s lives. And that is what is truly important. That is what matters most.”
And then with uncharacteristic brevity, I just thanked everyone and left the podium.
So I told my kids what I did and what I said. And they kind of understood the message intellectually but I didn’t think it really resonated to their core. So I asked them this question. “If you were living in Haiti and came home to find a pile of rubble where your house had been, what would you dig for? Would you dig for your ipod or your macbook? For your new shirt or jeans? of course not, you would dig for your family, your friends or anyone else who might have been in the house. And you would not stop digging despite how tired you were or if your fingers were bleeding because those lives are our most important treasures.” And then they got it. They really got it.