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A hope note

Today, I passed a barely teenage boy in the grocery store aisle whose black shirt greeted me in large white letters: ‘Here I Am. What Are Your Other Two Wishes?’
I involuntarily smiled one of those knowing smiles. I remember, as an adolescent, feeling such exuberance, such watch-out-world-here-I-come, I-can-be-anything-I-want-to-be grandiosity.
On reflection, I thought how appropriate it would be if on the back of the boy’s shirt, to add some balance to the front, was another sentence, ‘It’s Only One Six-Billionth About Me.’
Wise people and prophets in ever age advise us to hold our divinity and our mortality, our ‘I’m the King of the world’ blessedness and our ‘We’re poor little lambs who have lost our way’ fallenness, in a healthy tension.
When Julius Caesar paraded through the streets of Rome, fresh off victories in Gaul or Germany, a lowly servant stood by his side in the chariot, holding Caesar’s crown. As adoring throngs cheered the august one, the servant performed his other role. Occasionally, he whispered in Caesar’s ear three Latin words: sic transit gloria. In modern English: ‘All fame is fleeting.’
I like the way a rabbi made the same point. He said we should always carry two scraps of paper in our pockets. The message on one reads, ‘You are great with divinity!’ The message in the other pocket reads, ‘You are dust and ashes.’ When we get to feeling too much the truth of one, we need to remember to read the paper in the other pocket.
In my experience, for every egomaniac who needs to hear the ‘dust and ashes’ message, there are at least half a dozen poor little lost lambs who need to hear the one about being ‘great with divinity.’

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