It was one of those picture-perfect, beautiful spring mornings. I had davened at an early minyan that Shabbos morning in early May down the block from my parent’s home (this was well before I was married). When I stepped out of the shul it was peacefully quiet, the sun was shining, birds were chirping, and there was nary a cloud in the sky. I was a few steps out, when I heard the voice of someone stepping out of the shul behind me jovially call out: “Baruch shelo asani b’Brooklyn! (Blessed is He who didn’t put me in Brooklyn).”
I have an ongoing debate with my Brooklyn friends. They claim Monsey is too quiet and boring; I claim it’s far more beautiful and quainter. They say I can keep the quiet beauty and they’ll keep their restaurants and all the action. I agree.
One important difference between Brooklyn and Monsey is noticeable during autumn. In Brooklyn the leaf changes color, in Monsey the leaves change color!
There is no doubt about it. The visible foliage during these weeks is absolutely stunning. The iridescent combination of colors is magnificent, combining orange, yellow, red, and tinges of purple into multi-hued, majestic beauty.
It’s incredible to see the process unfold on its own, much like the miracle of spring a few months later. After being universally green throughout the hot summer, the leaves suddenly assert their individuality, displaying heretofore unrecognized resplendence. It is intriguing that the orange and yellow colors which only emerge now, had been hidden there throughout, obscured by the dominant green color. As the sunlight begins to wane signaling the advent of winter, the chlorophyll in the leaves starts to get depleted, and the inner colors emerge.
We are taught, and have heard many times, that there is great beauty and uniqueness in the soul of every person. Hopefully, as adults, we have an appreciation of our own inner beauty. But children are not always able to appreciate their own uniqueness. This is especially true about children who do not perform well in school for any variety of reasons.
The truly great educator is the one who is able to detect a child’s uniqueness, and subsequently help him/her bring it to the fore. The supreme educators are those who display a contagious enthusiasm and affection for their student’s/children individuality.
“Any fool can count the seeds in an apple. But only G-d can count the apples in a seed.” We can add that anyone can see the colors of a leaf during autumn, but only one with great foresight can appreciate those colors during the spring.
It’s a tragedy if a person never realizes his unique inner colors until he is older and wiser. How much wasted time and internal doubt!
Almost any adult can point to an individual in their life who encouraged them during their formative years. It didn’t have to be verbal encouragement; sometimes it’s the unverbalized sentiment that gave us the greatest boost. Someone who just appreciated us, for who we are.
Those educators who help children recognize and appreciate their inner colors fill the world with an unparalleled resplendent beauty (even in Brooklyn!).