Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm just happy to be here. How about you?

It doesn't seem logical or right that it was only a year ago, plus two weeks or so, that I received that fateful phone call from my dear friend Kelley in Los Angeles that got me thinking about "doing something".  Doing anything to stand up to real life bullies.  To set the record straight, I am not referring to the street bully who would wait on the corner of Rosewood and Fuller and take our lunch money, rather, the older and more "mature" bully who hides behind his religion or disability to attack another person.  This cause celebre, if for only one or two written paragraphs, placed into a story about how my father (obm z"l) hated "hate" would become this column only a few weeks later.  Time does fly.

On a scorching hot afternoon in August of 1976, I met my hero.  It was not one of those hero meeting moments, with the anticipation and autographs and eventual let down.  In fact, I just realized, thirty-three years after the fact, that LD was my hero in High School and would continue to be my hero.  Leo isn't just my hero because he saved me from getthing thrown off the football team (on day one of Hell Week); but because Leo Davis stood for, and still stands for everything that we should all aspire to stand for.  Leo stood large in the middle of our front lines, both on Defense and on Offense.  With all of his weight, and with all of his size, in 1977, 1978, and 1979, Leo is remembered for the size of his heart.  He played with it on the football field, and he gave it to everyone he came into contact with off the field.

Two weeks ago, while driving to Los Angeles to officiate and celebrate my father's two year memorial anniversary, I stopped before Shabbat at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and visited with Leo as he was recovering from a Triple Bypass performed the previous Wednesday.  You can have all of your Batmans and Supermans.  I'll take Davis.

"I'll take Davis" has a familiar ring to it as well... Back to the days of picking sides in a game of Whateverball, one side picked a player, and then the other side picked and back and forth until everyone was on a team.  Usually.  Some kids just never got picked, which, in retrospect was quite rude, but nobody ever wanted the short kid with red hair and braces.  Sometimes, girls even got picked before him.  Usually he would sit on the side and somehow get into the game, or not.  He was just happy to be there.

As I davened at my old spot on the Bima in the Beit Midrash of my old Shul the other day, I felt somewhat like that red haired kid.  I was just happy to be there.  I find myself, however, in the vast minority these days.  Most people that I see, just don't seem to be, and it is really a shame.

Leo, is just happy to be here. 

Speaking with Kelley today, I know that Kelley too, is happy to be here.  The kid who came from the cable company the other day to do his job at my new one bedroom condo, however, was not.  For the almost two hours that he was here, all he did was talk to himself complaining how he had to work that day.  Maybe if he had been just happy to be here, I might not have had to call the cable company later that day and ask to send another technician to finish the job that the kid never finished when he left to get a drill and never came back.

Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers teaches us that "he who is happy is the person who is happy with what he has."  Two thousand years ago this was written, and it holds true today. 

As we usher in another beautiful Shabbat in Emek haMidbar, the Valley of the Desert, I ask you to do what you can this Presidents' Day Weekend to just be happy to be here.

Shabbat Shalom, Ahavah u'Vrachot...

--R' Alan Abrams

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