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February 27, 2015  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

The importance of expressing appreciation

By Rabbi GARY KLEIN Temple Ahavat Shalom, Palm Harbor

One of the lessons I have often tried to share over the years is that it is very important to tell people whom we love and appreciate, how much we love them before it is too late.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lesson during the past several months. I thought about it as I was anticipating the surgery that I underwent in mid-September, and wondered whether I had done an adequate job of letting people who are precious to me know just how much I appreciate them. I also found myself thinking about this lesson every time I received a get-well wish, or an expression of appreciation. The community’s response to my concerns was overwhelming and played a major role in the recovery that I have experienced.

I also found myself thinking about how important it is to let people know their impact while there is still time. One day while hospitalized last fall, during a conversation with a wonderful nurse, the subject of Robin Williams’ life and his tragic death arose. She said that she had always appreciated his comedy and his acting; but, she also came to appreciate his character, his respect and compassion for other human beings, and his other qualities during a time when he was hospitalized at that hospital and she was one of his nurses. She told me that despite the fact that he was hospitalized, Williams tried to ease the pain of other patients.

Her words made me think about the role Robin Williams, of blessed memory, played in my rabbinate. While I never met him, I feel that in some aspects of my teaching and counseling, Williams, through his role as psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire in the film Good Will Hunting, helped me to help the adolescents with whom I have worked over the years, develop a healthy balance of self-esteem and respect for others.

Elsewhere in the same film, his character provided lessons for living beyond bereavement and on the importance of friendship. That film has been one of the most effective tools that I have been able to find for use in what I consider to be some of the most important aspects of my rabbinate.

I’m sure that Williams’ work touched many people in ways at least as profound as the ways it touched the teens and adults with whom I utilized his work. I wonder how many of those people who were blessed by Williams’ work ever told him how much he meant to them. I never did.

How easy it would have been to have sent him a letter telling him how many lives, especially young lives in one Florida community, his work had blessed. I wish I had written that letter.

The members of my congregation and many others in the community have certainly done an unbelievable job in making me feel loved and appreciated. My family and I will always be grateful to you. My prayer is that each of us think about all the people who are precious to us and that we make sure that we tell them and show them how much they mean to us.


The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board.

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