L’shana tova …!

beauty in the form of a beverage!“L’shana tova …!”A turn of phrase, but heartfelt nonetheless, every year I look forward to expressing this greeting to some of my friends and former associates. For those of you unfamiliar, it means “Happy New Year” in Hebrew. On the Jewish calendar, we have just entered a new year. So many religious events seem to be based on lunar and not solar calendars!

This actually brings back memories in my own life. I recall going to the corner restaurant owned by a Jewish gentleman, during my early years and ordering a chocolate egg cream. This was “liquid love” to me; it was “beauty in the form of a beverage.” That nostalgic memory has recently been revitalized by the recent introduction of the AriZona Chocolate Fudge Float Sparkling Soda. It has a vaguely familiar taste and it is made with Bosco, a chocolate syrup that I used to have in my milk about 50 some odd years ago.

I also recall my fifth grade teacher advising to have me “bussed” from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Sheepshead Bay in the early 1960’s. The move turned out to be a good thing in the long run. A social worker later eyed me and suggested I take the entrance examination to attend Brooklyn Technical High School, one of New York City’s elite public high schools at the time. I did and I was selected and history is still being made.

My fifth grade teacher also predicted that I would become President of the United States. As you can see, her heart was in the right place and she was a bit ahead of the times. For the record, I have no interest in that job today. I do not envy President Barack H. Obama for one minute! He is beginning to look older than me and I pre-date him by about 10 years…

And then, there was my first business partnership. It lasted longer than either of my marriages. I was fortunate to inherit both a business partner and a mentor. That relationship also helped shape much of my thinking today in terms of how to view business decisions.

If you have read this far, you kind of get the impression that I am a complex person (are not we all?). One would never expect “me” to look forward to uttering such as a phase as “l’shana tova,” but I really do look forward to it every year. It brings me closer to my cousins!

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An expression of goodwill…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

February 10, 2013 marks the start of a new year for more than one-fifth of the world’s population. While I do not represent that “one-fifth,” I share many links with it. We have attended each other’s weddings, funerals and other more joyous events. It is the most important of traditional Chinese holidays among us. It is also often referred to as the Lunar New Year.

The first day of the New Year is a time to honor your elders and families generally visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. This is an example of filial piety and is a tradition we could all benefit from, “paying homage to those who have travelled ahead of us.”

Members of the family who are married also give red packets containing cash known as lai see or angpow, a form of blessings and to suppress the aging and challenges associated with the coming year, to junior members of the family, mostly children and teenagers.1 I know my children would have loved following this practice, along with those of everyone else’s holidays!

Business managers give bonuses through red packets to employees for good luck, smooth-sailing, good health and wealth.

I bring some of these traditions up because it has recently come to my attention that China has surpassed the U.S. to become the World’s Largest Trading Nation.2

Isn’t it a better practice to wish your neighbor goodwill? You never know the future will turn. I say Xin nian kuai le (Happy New Year!) and Gong hai fa cai (Congratulations and be prosperous!) out of genuine respect and brotherhood with my neighbor. As I grow older, peace and harmony become ever more important and less stressful for me.

The world is a beautiful place and it grows smaller each day!

1 Wikipedia
2 Bloomberg News

Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men (& Women & Children)

A day ago I got involved in a discussion regarding free speech and how it can become abusive.  I was responding to an email concerning one of the groups I belonged to on Linked-In, a popular business networking site.

A gentleman of Asian ancestry was complaining about the anti-Islam posters which were scheduled to go up throughout the New York City Subway System (http://www.businessinsider.com/extreme-anti-islam-poster-in-nyc-subway-2012-12?goback=%2Enmp_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1%2Egde_2012010_member_197493407).  His comments were acknowledged by another professional of Eastern origin, judging from the sound of his name, and expanded upon to include the recent event in Newtown, Connecticut.

The following is a brief excerpt of my commentary on the matter:

“One really has to take a moment and examine these “amendment abuses.” We have the 1st amendment concerning freedom of expression. When used in an extremely offense manner it drives us all further apart and diminishes people’s support for it. We also have the 2nd amendment, which regards the right to bear arms. In extreme cases, this resulted in the Sandy Hook massacre two weeks ago and the Sikh killings in Wisconsin earlier.

While I support both of these rights, I think the issue, which should become a litmus test for both should be their “reasonableness and intent.” Should we use these rights to offend, incite and abuse?

We must also consider the timing of when these events occur. Christmas time? What happened to “Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men?”

In time, the Supreme Court will have to deal with both these issues. It is a shame that we have to rely a higher body to mandate for us because we can’t or refuse to as human beings apply the God given trait of commonsense to resolve this.”

There were obviously some people that did not like my commentary. I was subsequently told that the purpose of the group was not to address such issues (to which I later agreed), what bothered me was one of the later commentators chose to label my words as “nonsensical idle chatter or political ramblings.”

While I agreed with the fellow regarding the erroneous placement of my submission, I did question his authority to characterize them one way or another.

What is happening in this country where goodwill and peace towards others seems to be becoming a phenomenon? This is something that will require much thought and contemplation as we get ready for 2013, God (SWT) willing…

I pray for the Children…

Years ago, I wrote a special prayer (http://wp.me/p2hekR-v). A part of my morning ritual is ask for peace and harmony in this world. There is a section where I offer a prayer for children. In light of what has been happening recently to children throughout the world. It seems appropriate at this time to revisit those words:

… I pray for a World in which Children can be Children,
And grow up to become fine upstanding Adults,
With a good set of Values that have been imparted to them,
By their Parents, other Family members and their Elders.
I pray that they are never again exposed to the horrors of Man,
Because these have in fact, become non-existent!

In October of this year, the Taliban in Pakistan shoots a young girl the head on her way to school miraculously she lives. Yesterday, twenty-two primary school children were wounded in a knife attack in central China. This was followed by the shooting deaths of twenty-six people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 of them were children.

In each incident, the intentions were clear, to willfully harm OUR children!

Why are people committing these senseless acts of violence against our children? The older I get, the more I value the life of others, especially the children. They are truly the innocent ones. They are our hope for a better tomorrow.

If we are to survive as a species, we have to learn to preserve and protect the children!

Gifts from a friend…

I recently received some gifts from a friend who had recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia. She brought me back a “Thawb,” a garment worn in many Arab countries, a “kufi,” the brimless, short, and rounded cap worn by many populations in West Africa of all religions and throughout the African Diaspora, as well as throughout the Islamic world, a compass to direct me toward Mecca, prayer rug and some prayer beads.

Normally, one would not give much serious thought to these items but they are of special significance to me.

Islam has always been and will always be between us. More than 40 years ago, it separated us as we pursued different paths. She became a Sunni Muslim and I joined the Nation of Islam. We lost contact with each other. She married. I later left the Nation, but the “rope of Islam” kept us connected.

I would go on and through much independent reading on my own, eventually embrace a purer form of Islam than I originally started with. The beauty in this story is that which initially caused us to separate became a force that was quite apparent when we reestablished our friendship 40 years later.

She is still married and the Mother of five children. I am divorced but the also the Father of five children. The two of us remain better friends today than when we parted. She will always remain in my heart and in my prayers…

I wanted to share this story because most of what I see about Islam is always in the geo-political arena. We are all just trying to find a path to God. I believe there are many paths. This is a human-interest story and nothing more. I hope you enjoyed it.