Last week from the bimah, I shared a story about a magical moment that took place at Camp Ramah:
I was asked to teach the Ezra staff. Ezra is the summer program at Camp Ramah for adults with learning, emotional and developmental disabilities. Many are adults with severe special needs or learning differences. I started my teaching with an ice breaker. I asked the adults, “What about yourself are you most proud of?” We went around the circle, and one by one, the Ezra participants answered. One woman said, “I am so proud that my brother graduated from college.” Another man responded, “I am proud of my sister and how she decided to come to camp this summer.” Yet another person explained how happy he was that his dad was a writer. One woman exclaimed how proud she was of her aide—the person that helps her move around camp.
Perhaps you can hear what’s different about the answers. I asked the Ezra staff what he or she is most proud of…and not one person answered the question by providing an answer about themselves. No one said: I’m a talented artist or I’m great at sports or even, I’m proud of being a good brother or son. The adults were most proud of the accomplishments of people they love.
I left the session thinking that I was supposed to impart Torah wisdom to fifteen adults with special needs. Well I was the student that day: it seems that for some, humility is so ingrained in their soul that it feels natural to put others first. But for most of us, humility is a trait that needs to be grown so that we remember that God created this world just as much for the stranger on the street as our neighbor next door.
The Midrash teaches that, “When a house has no lower doorsill, it looks unfinished, left to fall apart. You too, even if you are endowed with all other virtues but lack humility, are unfinished.”
It is humility that reminds us how to share this blessed world with others. It is humility that allows us to gain insight and perception in the places we least expect.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks offers, “Humility is what opens us up to the world.”
One of the hardest traits to cultivate. One of the most important to hold as a priority.
May we nourish open, giving, humble hearts. And may those hearts open our eyes to bountiful blessings this world continues to provide.