I am not going to mention at all those who taught me by poor behavior, showing me what NOT to emulate. Why pull up the negative? I've learned and I'll move on.
Neither am I going to mention the "usual suspects", family and my Rabbis, because I'm constantly learning from them.
Instead I will mention three people, all women, one from my childhood, another from one I was an adult, but still in the past, and a third from today.
The first was a teacher in the Cincinnati Day School. She was a Quaker woman, with shoulder length, snow white hair. She was "old" to me then, but probably not more than 50 or so. I don't remember what grade I was in, I do not remember what she taught normally...I think she may have been a substitute...but I do remember the day she took us "claying".
Out back of the school, and odd shaped saucer building, down a hill through a copse of trees was a creek. This was normally "FORBIDDEN TERRITORY". We were not allowed past the trees let alone down the path.and into the creek, yet that is where this wonderful woman took us. An icy cold creek and the clay squishy firm beneath our hands. We pulled it out by chunks...I never knew there was such wondrous stuff there! I remember the stones beneath our feet, the cool green of the trees going up and down the path, the smell of mulch and mold of the leaves along the path. I remember the wonder of learning.
I hated school. I hated every minute of it. I was a "genius" who never made the grade. I found school boring, and annoying. I disliked having to sit and listen. I wanted something more.
This teacher taught me something more, much more than she ever knew. My senses were alive that day like they had never been in school. I was engaged, I was active, I was THERE...not lost in some mind world where only a shout and a reprimand could bring me back. I learned that life was out there for me! The world was a mystery to be solved, studied and worked with. Not taught but learned! inside my heart and my mind.
School was and will never be for me. But learning in joy is. I love to learn...from books and life. This was the woman's teaching.
The second was a mentally retarded woman...perhaps 18 or 19...very high end but definitely mentally retarded. I would see her nearly everyday as I walked my daughter to her bus stop; we would say hello, and smile and exchange some pleasantries. Not more than that.
One morning she passed by in an odd outfit. There was something in the outfit that told me "she is dressing up.." but I reserved comment because the outfit was "silly" and "strange." But she called me out... "don't you notice something different? I'm all dressed up!!! It is my birthday!" Immediately of course I stopped, congratulated her, complimented her on the outfit. "How silly of me not to have noticed..." but what I really felt was shame. Here this young woman was seeking something everyone seeks...to be considered. To be important...and I had blown a chance to give a gift because I judged her outfit on the basis of society and not through her eyes. As foolish as the dress may have been she was proud of her dress, and I had acted as a judge rather than a friend.
She taught me to see the other person from where they stand and to judge them from where they stand, and to try and see beauty based not on the outside view, but the inner, soul view.
The third teacher has just entered my life, less than a year ago. She is an extraordinary woman, smart, kind and loving. And she writes a terrific blog! But what I learned was from her latest article from the Breslev site.
It wasn't even the main part of her article, but it was something that struck me to the heart. It was these words.
When one repents, does teshuva, and becomes a ‘new person’, it is best not to talk about the past. Putting old and negative vibes into the atmosphere is not good for the universe and especially not conducive to purifying one’s soul. The worst thing we can do for ourselves is to remind the accusing angels of the sins we chalked up many years ago, giving them so much more ammunition to use against us in the Heavenly Courts, come Judgment Day.
You see, I have a tendency to do just that. I flail at myself for past sins which I have cried to heaven about, and done tseuvah for. In fact I was going through a bout of past recriminations at that time...going over and over in my head sins that I have done. Though others have discussed the futility and harm of this action with me in the past, it was her words that struck me to the core and made me realize how much harm was being done to myself, and how by these actions I was keeping myself from moving forward in life.
So I want to give thanks to the above for all their help.
There are so many more people who have helped me along the way, but these three stand out for me right now.