Are We Relevant?

Rabbi Dr. Irwin Wiener

How many times have we gathered to share moments past? “What was” seems to bring life to our conversations. Somehow we find ourselves reminiscing rather than planning. Recounting stories of yesterday, because the future seems so daunting. This, my friends, is not an aberration, but reality. Think back to the last time we were in a group setting, either at dinner or at a party. Think hard, and whoa! Our childhood memories surface along with stories of long ago that help us laugh.

Some of us think about what could have been and get stuck in the things we can no longer accomplish. Perhaps we should remember that we cannot change the past, and it is frightening to think about what will be. I remember reading a quote from a statesman where he notes that we are not creatures of circumstance, but rather we create circumstances. The most difficult of these is worrying about the next moment because we are concerned about our relevance.

Some of us worry about what might have been or whether what might have been could have turned out better had we another chance. Instead of concentrating on our legacy and the contributions we are still capable of producing, we get lost in the past and then feel depressed. We need to realize that we are more relevant today than we ever were. Why? Because we have the past to guide us into the future. This is relevance!

How many times have we been involved in celebrations or gatherings and felt as though we had nothing to contribute to the conversations taking place? Again, perhaps we just need to try. We sit back and listen and feel as though we’re an invisible person alone in the room with no one around us. We have experience. We have lessons learned that can assist those just learning to walk into the realm of adulthood. When we took our first step, we had someone there to catch us if we fell. That is our function now—to catch those who are taking their first step into the journey of life so that they will feel as secure as we did. This is relevance!

A story is told of an elderly man kneeling in his backyard planting a tree. A neighbor asked why he was planting the tree, because it will not be possible for him to see it grow into full maturity. His reply was simple and eloquent. He remarked that the generations that preceded him had planted trees that now give him shade and fruit and enjoyment. It was now his responsibility to plant for the next generation, as did the generations past. This is relevance!

Our legacy is everlasting. More than that, however, is the understanding that relevancy is a lesson for the future. All of us have purpose. Purpose does not fade with time. Purpose lasts until the very last breath and even beyond.

Relevance means to get into the middle of everyday living, contribute to the message of life, its meaning, and, yes, its relevance. Then perhaps each day will contain fulfillment, each season its rewards, each connection bring meaning to our lives.