The bombardment of tragic events in recent days is overwhelming. As the nightly news begins, within one minute, we hear about a tornado, a shooting, attacks in houses of worship, harsh divisiveness in our leadership, a scandal and much more. It is debatable whether we are living in an age with more violence or we are just more aware of the world around us.  

However, there is no debate that the new environment is leading to greater anxiety, despair and paralysis. We move from headline to headline and sincerely wonder about the kind of world we are leaving for the next generation. Congregants regularly ask us, Is there anything I, individually, can do to create greater peace and understanding in the world? How can I remain hopeful and inspired to improve the world at a time when the darkness seems so strong?

Take a deep breath and pause. The light will rise, and you can make a difference. Here is how…

Maintain your perspective…and celebrate life. A story is told about a teacher who gave his students a surprise test. Everyone received a blank paper and then he asked them to turn it over. There was a black dot in the center of the page. He said, I want you to write what you see. The students wrote down their answers and handed in their papers. One by one the teacher read the answers out loud. Everyone focused on the dot and no one on the white paper. The teacher explained, No one wrote about the paper but on the dot even though it represents a small fraction of the paper.

We do the same in our lives. We are so busy focused on the black spots, we forget about the reasons we have to celebrate life—the friends, family, health, love and miracles we see every day. There is much goodness around us. Rejoice!

Remember that no encounter is random. Every act of kindness that you do will reverberate from one corner of the world. Every ripple starts with one pebble dropped into a pond. Every smile, warm greeting, word of encouragement, thank you, act of volunteering, gift of charity reveals another light in another human being and ignites new hope and life in the world.

In the immortal words of Anne Frank, How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. She lived in a much darker time and did not lose hope, and neither must we. Your actions matter. There is no one else in the world like you. As we shared last fall, be the Elijah the world is waiting for!

Fuel your faith. The earth is not on auto pilot but every day there is renewal and growth. It is the will of a higher power, the Divine, to refresh the world with spring following winter and flowers following the rain. It is an eternal promise. Every child is born with wonder and goodness and represents a new hope. This code embedded at birth, this innate desire to grow, live, love and create impact, is the most powerful symbol of God’s infinite grace. It is our responsibility to be his partners in never retreating from our sacred mission to instill light in places of darkness and hope in places of despair.

Take time today to turn off the outside world, shut off the news, and refortify yourself. Count your blessings. Celebrate the miracle of life. Finally, never lose faith in the dawn of brighter day and a time when a Divine light will shine across the world.

Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?