They say when someone blesses your life both people involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen what is whole in one another.
I know that lives can be blessed and strengthened in many ways:
through friendship, by kindness, by generosity, through our philanthropy, our example, our encouragement, and our belief in someone. In her book, My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen
writes beautifully about the subject, saying that “when we offer our blessings generously, the light in the world in strengthened, around us and in us.”
My friend, Joan Hastings, blessed my life. When we met in 2004, I had no idea that she was going to become such an important person in my life. It wasn’t clear to me then that I was going to develop a deep appreciation and love for this woman with the twinkle in her eye.
But it didn’t take long!
Joan was a delightful friend. She was smart, strategic, and compassionate. She had a deep and abiding love for her family and friends. She was collaborative. She brought people together in the best possible ways. One of my favorite Joan Memories is the day she introduced me to the folks at Enchanted Circle Theatre and Snow Farm. I’ll never forget the smile on her face. It lasted the entire meeting… As we sat together creating exciting new learning opportunities for children whose lives had been impacted by foster care, the positive energy in the room was palpable. Joan loved inspiring innovation. She was such a visionary!
Joan filled my life with possibility and opportunity. She acted as a sounding board for my ideas and aspirations. She offered me her wisdom and guidance. She gave me courage. As a result of knowing Joan, I now am able to stand in front of a room and invite people from all walks of life to join me in Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America.
As I spend time honoring Joan’s memory today, I find myself flipping the pages of My Grandfather’s Blessings to find one of my favorite passages.
It speaks so eloquently about the power of being blessed.
“On Friday afternoons when I would arrive at my grandfather’s house after school, the tea would already be set on the kitchen table. My grandfather had his own way of serving tea. There were no teacups or saucers or bowls of granulated sugar or honey. Instead, he would pour the tea directly from the silver samovar into a drinking glass. There had to be a teaspoon in the glass first, otherwise the glass, being thin might break.
My grandfather did not drink his tea in the same way that my parents did either. He would put a cube of sugar between his teeth and drink the hot tea straight from his glass. So would I. I much preferred drinking tea this way to the way I had to drink tea at home.
After we had finished our tea my grandfather would set two candles on the table and light them. Then he would have a word with God in Hebrew. Sometimes he would speak out loud, but often he would close his eyes and be quiet. I knew then that he was talking to God in his heart. I would sit and wait patiently because the best part of the week was coming.
When Grandpa finished talking to God, he would turn to me and say, “Come, Neshume-le.” Then I would stand in front of him and he would rest his hands lightly on the top of my head. He would begin by thanking God for me and for making him my grandpa. He would specifically mention my struggles during that week and tell God something about me that was true. Each week I would wait to find out what that was. If I had made mistakes during the week, he would mention my honesty in telling the truth. If I had failed, he would appreciate how hard I had tried. If I had taken even a short nap without my nightlight, he would celebrate my bravery in sleeping in the dark. Then he would give me his blessing and ask the long ago women I knew from his many stories – Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah, and Leah – to watch over me…
My grandfather died when I was seven years old. I had never lived in a world without him before, and it was hard for me. Hr looked at me as no one else had and called me by a special name, “Neshume-le,” which means “little soul.” There was no one else left to call me this anymore. At first I was afraid that without him to see me and tell God who I was, I might disappear. But slowly over time, I came to understand that in some mysterious way, I had learned to see myself through his eyes. And that once blessed, we are blessed forever.”
Thank you Joan. I am deeply grateful to you for all of the gifts you have given me. I loved having you in my life. Your generosity, wisdom, humor and vision will always be remembered.