About a year ago, I took my now 11-year-old son to a New York Jetsgame. It was his first opportunity to experience a football game from the stands and he spent much of the time taking photos on his iPod Touch.
Unfortunately, our beloved Jets lost the game. As we were walking dejectedly back to our car, my son discovered another distressing loss: somehow, his iPod had slipped out of his fingers and was gone. Was there any way he would ever get his iPod back, he asked despairingly. While the odds were against it, I filed a claim for the missing iPod with the Jets’ Lost and Found department.
On the second day of Chanukah, a couple months later, I received a surprise call from the Jets. Someone had turned the iPod in to Lost and Found! After I verified that it belonged to my son, they offered to mail it to us. And so, a few days later, I presented my son with his Chanukah present – his old iPod, which still had the photos of the Jets he took that day at the stadium. He was elated.
Fast forward to early August of this year, when I found a camera on the subway. After teaching my children a life lesson from the returned iPod – that people perform good deeds because it’s the right thing to do – I was certainly going to do everything possible to return the camera to its owner.
I posted some photos of the owners on Facebook and, through the magic of social media, located the owner and returned her camera. The blogs Jew in the City and VIN News covered the story, which then went viral on Facebook and Twitter. I received more praise for returning the camera than I received for any of the victories I’ve achieved with the Orthodox Union on behalf of yeshivas and Jewish day schools. While the adulation was flattering, it brought to mind a lesson that was instilled by my parents throughout my youth.
My parents always taught me that one of the most important lessons in life is not based on success, or academics, or Talmudic proficiency, but on the Torah’s phrasing of the Golden Rule, the “Do Unto Others” concept. That concept, combined with my own notion of “Carpe Diem,” or seizing the moment, forms the core of how I try to live my life. Essentially, the lesson from both my son’s iPod Touch and the camera is that while returning a lost item is great, we shouldn’t wait to find a lost item to do a mitzvah or good deed. We should seize the moments or opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis.
One such opportunity is coming up on Tuesday, November – Election Day. Many poskim, most notably Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, were and are adamant about the responsibility of every individual to vote and the power even one vote can have.
This past September, we witnessed in New York State firsthand how much every person’s vote counts. At the end of a primary election for a seat in the New York State Assembly representing part of the Bronx, the results were too close to call. The vote needed to be recounted manually. After weeks of going through the tallies of each electronic voting machine and counting the absentee votes and paper ballots, the result was certified. New York State Assemblyman Victor Pichardo was re-elected by two votes. Two votes. Imagine if yours was one of the deciding votes and you chose to stay home that day instead.
For anyone who thinks that his or her vote doesn’t count, pay attention to Assemblyman Pichardo’s election. And for anyone who only votes in presidential races, pay attention as well. Elections for local, city, and state office are at least as important as presidential elections and affect our daily lives even more. Our local, city, and state legislators work on issues that affect our communities. The most fundamental – and easiest – way to ensure that the best people serve our interests is by showing up at the polls and voting.