Thursday, December 25, 2014

When was the Last Time you Thanked your Garbage Man?

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Dear Henry,
       Today December 25, is a National Holiday that approximately 250,000,000 Million Americans celebrate. For some Americans, like myself, this is a day in which there is blessedly no traffic, in which I consume enormous amounts of Chinese food. But for the majority of Americans, this day is a very spiritual, special day. And since this day falls on a Thursday this year, a handful of these 250,000,000, spent their night last night, on December 24th, collecting the garbage in the frozen, quiet city streets. Last night, instead of spending time with their families, sipping hot Cocoa by the fire place, knitting mittens and playing Monopoly, a number of amazing individuals went out to work. For them, work means standing on the back of a car, in sub-zero weather, stopping every ten feet to empty dirty, smelly garbage into the back of their trucks. After doing this for one house, they continue on, and on, and on, the longer they continue on, the colder the temperature becomes.
     In my opinion, our garbage men and women, as they case may be, are exceedingly inspiring Americans that we all ought to learn from, for several reasons. Firstly, have you ever stopped to think about the service they provide for us? Imagine for a moment, that there was not garbage collection? Where would we put our dirty diapers, or our nasty smelling spoiled cantaloupe? We would just leave it in our backyards? Even if there was a dump we could take it to, how excited are you to transport the putrid smelling rubbish you have accumulated over the last week? How long will it take for that horrific smell to finally disappear from your car? These heroic garbagemen and garbagewomen, as the case may be, are providing you and I an enormously important service. And for that we are obligated to thank them.
   In addition we can all bask in admiration of our local garbage collection team for their dedication to their jobs, and their hard work. What job is there that requires more effort and sacrifice? Up here in the frigid Northeastern tundras, it gets bloody cold. And yet, every week, no matter what the temperature, rain, shine, hail, snow, blizzards, monsoons, what have you, they come, every single week, without fail. Are we as dedicated to our jobs as they? Are we willing to invest as much as they are? All I can do, is tip my metaphorical hat in admiration.
   Finally, we should give them credit for dutifully performing their jobs, despite not receiving any thanks, or positive feedback. Human beings crave compliment, and positive reinforcement. Mark Twain himself said, "I can live for two months on a good compliment." And even if you wanted to, like a mighty flash of lightening, the garbage truck can come roaring by like a mighty lion ready to pounce on its unsuspecting prey, at any time, whether we are ready for it or not. Sometimes, in the grey, cold, Northeast, the garbage truck comes cruising down the block at 4:00 in the morning. Even the most noble intentioned Americans out there are not going to be waiting for the garbage man at 4:00 AM in their flannel jammies. It is a more thankless job than being a clergy member. And yet, they come through every single week. And even if they were mad at you for having too much garbage, what can they do about it? At least a waiter in a restaurant who is mistreated can spit in your food, or something. Not so with the garbage man. He just comes through for you, EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK.
       So Henry, I ask you the following question: When was the last time you thanked your garbage man? I triple dogg dare all of my thousands upon thousands of dedicated readers from Idaho to Belize, from Montana to Dji Bouti-- figure out a way to acknowledge your local garbage collectors for their hard work. Maybe glue a gift card onto the garbage bin, or tie a bow around it with a note. We all need to look at ourselves in the mirror and honestly answer the following very difficult question: When was the last time I thanked my garbage man?

Forever Yours,
Danny Wolfe

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day off in Israel

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Dear Henry, 
  This past Monday, the wonderful opportunity arose for me to take  a day off, and go to Israel to attend my littlest nephew's bris. A lot of people might be thinking, that's a very interesting place to go for a day off. On a day off, perhaps it would make more sense to go to the nature reserve for some bird watching, go to the farm for some good old fashion cow tippin, or to do some blueberry picking. How does it make sense to drive three hours to the airport, wait three hours for my flight, sit on the cross Atlantic flight for 10 hours, spend a day in Israel for the sake of a 2 minute service and an accompanying breakfast, then, that night, go to the airport, hours before my flight, and do the same exact thing, just this time wait 2 more hours on the plane since I am flying against the jet stream? Well Henry, and all you doubters out there, I am here to tell you that all of this was 100% worth it; I would do it 1000 times more, and I recommend you take a day off in Israel as well. 
     There are three glaring, obvious reasons this is true.  The first reason is that Israel is a place unlike any other. Any opportunity to go there is an outstanding privilege that should not be passed up. We are talking about the land that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob treaded with their own two feet. This is the place that Moses so desperately desired to go, but tragically, couldn't. This is a place that we have been exiled from for the last 2000 years. This is where G-d's presence is so concentrated and easily perceived, where miracles happen every single day.  This is the center of the universe where being a Jew comes as natural as a colorful butterfly spreading her beautiful wings at Colorado's Butterfly Pavilion. As I once heard quoted by a great rabbi, being Jewish in America is like being a Polar Bear in the Bronx Zoo. Being Jewish in Israel is like being a Polar Bear in the The North Pole. Thus, I ask you, how on G-d's green earth could I have passed up the opportunity to be in Israel even for one day? What would the millions of Jews brutally persecuted in the Diaspora over the past 2000 years have given for ONE DAY in Israel? What would they have given, how much money would they have paid?
      Thus as I got out of the car Sunday evening  in a quiet lovely little place called Nof Ayalon, I took an intense, deep breath, and as my lungs were filled with the pristine, holy air of Israel, I honestly would have been content getting back in the car, going to the airport and heading home. That one breath of Israel reinvigorated me, rejuvenated me and reignited a spark from deep within me that words cannot adequately describe.
       There is a second reason I have absolutely no regrets about my day off in Israel. Quite simply, I was able to be with my family who I rarely see, at a major joyous life cycle event. If there is one thing my Pops taught me growing up, it is that family is everything. I was blessed growing up in a beautiful, loving family. In addition to my wife and kids, there is no one I would rather spend the holidays with than my Momma and Pops, my Bro and his family, and my baby sister and her family. I was also able to see my uncle, aunt and 4 little cousins. Being with my loving family at such a collective joyous, blissful moment-- celebrating the bris of my nephew, effectively welcoming him into G-d's eternal covenant with the Jewish People, was nothing less than magical. Celebrating together with my family was worth every second of the over 22 hours of flying time.  As my brother-in-law beautiful declared as the bris was happening, "Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has enabled me to live, and has sustained me, and has brought me, to this (glorious) day." 
     And finally, dear Henry, the third reason that taking a day off in Israel was an amazing idea that my thousands upon thousands of readers across the vast universe should do is that it drove home what I believe is one of the most crucial ideas a person can comprehend in his life time.  The Mishna states: the day is short; but there's a lot of work. Our time in this world is not infinite. We will be here hopefully 80-90 years, but in the large scheme of the universe that is but a minuscule fraction. Being in Israel for all of one day drove this point home very hard. I had 24 hours in Israel. Was I going to use that reading articles from ESPN, or playing snake on my phone? Or was I going to cherish every one of my precious moments in the Holy Land? Being in Israel for one day made me realize I didn't have time to waste. I had to wisely use every second. And as I waited for my plane on which I currently comfortably sit in my row to myself, I realized that although I arrived at this very airport YESTERDAY, it seems like a week ago- because in the last 24 hours I bonded with my parents, sister, nephew, brother in law, aunt, uncle, 4 little cousins, and my

sister's amazing in-laws. I also learned Torah in Israel, prayed at the Western Wall, visited some old friends, went to my rugelech guy, and falafel guy, ate a mind-blowing sufganiya, and engaged in one of my favorite Israeli pastimes by schmoozing with an Israeli taxi driver. In one day I accomplished an enormous amount. How much can I accomplish if I use my time so efficiently 365 days a year for 120 years? I believe the potential is endless.
    As I sit here, somewhere over the vast Atlantic Ocean with an hour to go in my flight, I know I will be at work in a few hours and this will all feel like a distant dream. But it is a dream I dare not forget.

Danny Wolfe

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Dear Henry,
      For a laundry list of reasons, I do not own a television. There are a whole bunch of reasons for why I choose to not own a television. One of them, is that I do not want to see the commercials, and have their messages and values seep into my soul.
      You see, dear Hank, I was recently tricked. I have a Iphone 4s. And on that Iphone 4s there is an incredible app called NFL Mobile. The nice thing about NFL Mobile is that it allows me to watch most Broncos games this season, the season when they will finally win that elusive Super Bowl (you heard it here first.) What the ITunes store neglected to warn me, however, when I purchased the app for free, was that with the Broncos games, came commercials. With the commercials, came very, very messed up values.
      For example, the following commercial promoting an app called NFL NOW probably airs 130 times a game on the NFL Mobile App. And about the 27th time, it hit me how convoluted it was. The commercial can be found here,
goes as follows:
"Now listen up NFL, I want the NFL the way I want it, and I want it now! I want my team, I want my own stream! I want highlights and breaking news my way...."
      Apparently, this app allows people to watch updated videos about their teams they root for. The message is clearly that I shouldn't be bothered and inconvenienced to have to wait for the NFL news that interests me.  If I want something now, I should get it now. I shouldn't have to wait. Not only shouldn't I have to wait, but I shouldn't have to undergo the nuisance of having to watch news about other teams that I don't care about. Like, who cares that Geno Smith throws the football like a third grade school girl? And why should I have to suffer through watching "highlights" from the Giants debacle against Jacksonville? Everything in the world revolves around my convenience. This ego mania promoting commercial is indeed very troublesome, and I believe antithetical to Jewish values.
       We live in a world of instant gratification, and we cannot be bothered to work or struggle for things anymore. We cannot wait for things any more.  Long gone are the days of sitting for 3 minutes waiting for your AOL 3.0 to dial up to the internet. Gone are the days of dialing 10 digits to reach someone on the telephone. In Judaism however, we assume that spiritual pleasure is the most intense, real, long lasting pleasure there is. When biting into a steak, the pleasure is immediate, but long forgotten 30 seconds later. It is fleeting. When visiting the elderly, doing a mitzvah,  or keeping kosher, the pleasure is not necessarily immediate-- but it is eternal. We believe in an afterlife in which we are rewarded for our efforts in this world-- even if that reward comes 120 years after the initial action.
        Now instead of having to bother speaking to someone I simply text them, in order to avoid the inconvenience of a real conversation. And if I do want to burden myself to speak to a person, Baruch Hashem there is a new app called Glide, which enables me to speak to them, leaving a video message, without having to go through the burdensome back and forth of a real live conversation in which I would actually have to listen and respond to what they say in real time.
      And furthermore, the other day I was speaking to my friend who was complaining to me about the very unfortunate reality that when using an Iphone in order to respond via text to a missed recent call, you have to press two buttons, in essence moving your right index finger a tiresome two times. In contrast, the new, handy dandy Droid, enables you to only have to suffer through one click, instead of two. Similarly, the Droid has the nifty Glide feature when texting, which means that its users no longer have to suffer through picking up their fingers between typing individual letters. I personally am strongly considering switching over so I won't have to continue soaking my index finger in a bag of ice, after it is so sore from a long day of moving up and down between letters of text messages.
      Lets say that swiping instead of typing, and one click instead of 2,  saves a person 1 minute a day, or 7 minutes a week. I hear the value of such time saving technology if we ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING WITH THOSE 7 minutes! But what are we doing with the time saved? Are we using it to go pick up the trash littering our streets, helping old ladies cross the street, going out and having a meaningful conversation with a homeless person, visiting the sick, saving the whales, making a blessing, or baking blueberry muffins for our new neighbors? Or are we egregiously wasting them reading ridiculous articles on ESPN about how Lebron James decided not to toss some baby powder in the air any more before his basketball games?
      I suffer from this more than anyone. And that's why today was a blessed day-- when I arrived at work, I saw to my utter  horror that both my Ipad and my Iphone were out of battery, and I forgot my battery charger at home, and no one except for me still uses the Iphone 4S, so no one had a charger to lend me. So something weird happened-- when I spoke to people, I didn't rudely, constantly stare down at my phone like I usually do. Between meetings I didn't throw my precious time out the window by reading nonsense on the internet-- I actually used my brain. I thought. I tried to figure out where I stand on current events, relevant issues going in in Furgeson, Israel, and across the globe. It was mind-blowing.
     I encourage you, my thousands upon thousands of devoted readers across the vast expanse of globe to think about this epic rant, and figure out how it can apply to you. Maybe you also suffer from ego-mania. Maybe you waste more time than you should. Maybe you try to take every shortcut you can rather than truly toiling and working for something. Whatever it is, in life we need to try to identify areas in which we can improve, and to grow to become better people.
    Forever yours,
    Danny Wolfe