Tikkun Olam

Yesterday, in the midst of pouring rain that I thought earned me an indoor yoga session rather than an outdoor run, Steve said, “Let’s go.”

My husband will run in just about any kind of weather and has little patience for whining, so I just sort of grunted and said OK.

When we got to the garage he grabbed our clippers and lopers and said, “It’s a good time to do trail maintenance. No one else will be on the running path.”

The county does maintenance on our trail once per year in September. The rest of the year the plants try to take over the path. If we don’t clear the brush on the path, the thorny vines will stab runners and provide a home for copperheads when they come out in the spring. So, the runners, fishers, and dog walkers all do a bit of work to keep our trail usable through the year.

Normally I do the trail maintenance while Steve runs since it’s good exercise for me.  But, lately we’ve had killer storms that brought down large trees and thick vines. They were too heavy and too big for me and my small clippers, though I did my best and others did as well. Which is to say that Steve is right. The job needed more strength and bigger tools. He took it on.

In Judaism we have a concept called tikkun olam, which roughly means “repairing the world” or “fixing up the world.” Whenever we do something like voluntarily maintaining a path, we practice tikkun olam. When we serenade people trapped in their houses: tikkun olam. When we join together to repair or improve anything, we are part of an endless harmony of goodness that rebuilds the world each day. Tikkun olam.

But here’s the thing, it’s not just repairing things that are broken. It’s also about doing creative work to improve the mental landscape. Artists, writers, musicians and other creatives constantly add to and improve the world, even if all we do is provide a few minutes of escape for those who need it. It is a privilege and a glorious opportunity.

Today as I write, I’ll think about Steve’s very good example. No act of repair or creation is too small. No bit of kindness unimportant. We are here to make things better. If there is rain or trouble, that means it is an opportunity.

May you, my creative friends, add to the harmony of the world with your work today.

Be well friends!

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