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  Stepping Up to the Plate from
The Jewish Theory of Everything
A behind-the-scenes look at the world

By Max Anteby 


Other Available Chapters
Close Encounters 
Life in the 'Burbs 


Stepping Up to the Plate

“Mr. Crawford, this is National City Bank and I’m calling about that missed payment on your mortgage.”

“Mr. Crawford, this is the nurse from your son’s school. He took a little flop during recess today. You might want to take him to your family doctor. I’m sure he’ll be ok.”

“Roger, don’t forget we’re having dinner with my parents tonight.”

“Crawford! Come in to my office; there’s something we need to discuss.”

Did you ever feel that you were on a treadmill going nowhere? It’s a very common feeling. In today’s society with all of the pressures to succeed in business, family life and the social scene, it’s very easy to get caught up in this everyday world and say, “What’s it all about? Why am I here?”
How would you go about finding out the answer? Let’s first see what some other people think about it.

About ten years ago, Newsweek magazine conducted a survey of approximately 10,000 American high school kids and asked them what would be the most awesome experience they could imagine. A lot of the boys immediately responded, “Five minutes one-on-one with Michael Jordan.” Many of the girls said, “Wow! I’d love to meet the cast of ‘Titanic’.” But the majority of them said that the most amazing experience they could think of would be to meet God.

So let’s imagine you come home from work one day and you see this brilliant light shining from your living room window. You unlock the door and you hear a deep voice say, “Roger, take off your shoes from upon your feet, for the ground upon which you are standing is holy ground.”

And there He is – you sense God, in your own living room.

What do you think you would say?

Some people would be content to find out who was going to win this year’s Super Bowl, or what’s tonight’s winning lottery number, or the best pick in the stock market. What do you think you would ask Him? I know what I would ask.

I would say, after my knees stopped shaking, “Dearest God, what is my purpose in life? Why have You put me here?”

Sounds like a doozy of a question, right? Let’s say He told me something crazy like, “You are here to coach Little League.”

What? I don’t even like baseball! I don’t even know how to throw a ball. I always thought the cleanup batter was the guy who dusted off home plate. What did He mean by that?

Whether I understood it or not, if I believed that this was my purpose in life, I would try to be the best darned Little League coach in the universe. And every time I taught a child how to hit a ball or slide into second base, I would take great pride in knowing that I was fulfilling my role in this world.
And then suppose, one day, the governor calls me up and tells me he wants me to coach the State’s Special Olympics Baseball Team. And there I am, building up the pride and self-respect of twenty disabled youngsters who might never have had the chance to experience the thrill of hitting a home run or catching a fly ball if it weren’t for me. I then might better understand that my purpose in life was not just baseball, but to bring joy and happiness to others through the use of my God-given talents.

But most of us will never meet God face to face. Does that mean we can never discover our purpose and goal? Or perhaps there is no such thing anyway. Maybe we are only here as accidents of nature with no more purpose in life than an amoeba.

Does that make sense, though? Look at the people around you. Everyone is trying in his own way to make a mark on the world. Whether it’s by having their name inscribed on the cornerstone of a building, or trying to find the cure for a disease or simply naming their grandchildren after them, most people want to leave something to posterity. Instinctively we know that there is a deeper meaning to life than mere existence.

So how does one find meaning?

Unfortunately, God doesn’t make house calls. But the path to finding meaning in life can begin in your own living room. It’s a multi-step process. The first step is one that people think about doing, but usually never do. It is, simply, to write out a list of things that are important to you in life. (A good hot cup of coffee to get you going in the morning may be important and pleasant, but it’s not one of those life-goal things we’re talking about.) It should be things like:

  • A good marriage
  • Success in business (to be defined by you either as making a lot of money, getting a lot of honor, offering the best product, doing business honestly, etc.)
  • A close circle of trusted friends
  • The nicest house on the block
  • Helping the underprivileged
  • Saving whales
  • Becoming famous
  • Looking good, always
  • Raising a good family (once again to be defined by you as loving, caring, attractive, value-based, outgoing, fun-loving, religious, etc.)
  • Protecting the world from the spread of communism, fundamentalism, Democrats/Republicans, disease, poverty and hunger.
Once you’ve taken the first step, the second step is even more critical. Review your list objectively and decide which of the above items you are willing to die for.
  • Would you be willing to risk a heart attack to get that next order from Walmart?
  • Would you dive into the ocean to save a whale? What about saving your child?
  • Would you join the US Army to fight an evil enemy?
  • Would you be ready to kill yourself if the living room furniture doesn’t match the rug?
Chances are, when you get through crossing out, you will have two major items left on your list: family and values. Whether these values relate to how you conduct your life in business, in society, or in the privacy of your own home, some of them are truly worth dying for.

Now that you have a focus, the most important step is to live for what’s important. Finding meaning in life is important, but taking action and accomplishing your goal is what gives meaning to life, giving you unparalleled power and pleasure. Even the mundane tasks of this everyday world become enriching.

If you are a housewife raising young children, then every time you do the laundry, cook a meal or help with homework, you are fulfilling your life’s goal.

If your goal is to teach values, then every time you return the extra change to the cashier, or admit when you are wrong, or refrain from gossiping about another person, you are setting an example for others to follow.

If your goal is to help others, then every time you use your particular talents you are making the world a better place – which is what you acknowledged is your purpose for being here in the first place! This can take the form of philanthropy, if you are rich; creating beautiful paintings, if you’re artistic; teaching, if you’re smart; or coaching a baseball team – in the unlikely event that God happens to show up in your living room one day and tells you to.

 
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