By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

We are certainly living in strange and challenging times! Although I have written this column before, the Jewish value that comes to mind for today is courage, in Hebrew ometz lev. The most interesting thing about the Hebrew word is that it translates as “strength of heart.” It is not just about being strong in a physical way, but doing the right thing when it is hard. More than that, it is also about doing something new and different, even when it is hard. When working with children, we think and talk about risk a lot and what it means to take appropriate risks. Here are a few sections from an article titled “Giving Ourselves Permission to Take Risks” by Elizabeth Jones. The article was written primarily for early childhood, but it is really a message for all of us.

“Courage, as we’ve learned from the Cowardly Lion, is a virtue that is hard to sustain. New experiences are often scary; we don’t know what will happen next or what we should do. Yet all new learning involves risk. We learn by doing — and by thinking about the past and the future.

“Risk is inevitable; it’s a requirement for survival. The challenge is to name it, practice it, enjoy the rush of mastery and bear the pain when pain is the outcome.

“A child who climbs may fall. But a child who never climbs is at much greater risk. Fall surfaces under climbers aren’t there to prevent falls, only to make them less hard. And hugging doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does make it more bearable.”

And there is more, as courage is needed in so many parts for life. A favorite and important children’s book is “Courage” by Bernard Waber. The cover picture is of a little boy on a diving board high above the water and the pages beautifully expressed show all kinds of courage from the silly to the final pages: “Courage is sometimes having to say goodbye” and, finally, “Courage is what we give to each other.” The strange and challenging times will be with us always, but it is how we take the strength together to make it through.

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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