Trout Unlimited made a mistake in their 2007 wall calendar. They accidentally gave February 31 days instead of 28. Apparently this innocent error provoked an uproar among some of the more intense fans of the organization. The Trout Unlimited website records e-mail comments like “Learn how to count, you guys are idiots,” and “Yet another in a long line of crimes against humanity perpetuated by you tree huggers.” It sure seems that some people need to relax a bit.
Picture: The infamous month of February 2007 with 31 days.
As a response to their mistake, Trout Unlimited is running a contest. They are asking readers to write in and tell how they would spend three extra days in this year. If given this amazing gift of three “free” days, how would you use them? I thought it was a great question and I have a few answers.
For me, the first free day would be a “me” day. I would spend 24 hours doing things I enjoy like fly fishing or biking (the three days do not have to be in February!). Maybe I would go into Manhattan for jazz, a Broadway show and of course an excellent meal.
It might be tempting to make all three days “me” days. We might want to use them all only to do what we want, to make up for all the times we are at work, or taking care of others. But I suspect that at the end of the third day of only thinking only of our own desires, we might feel a little hollow. Rabbi Hillel, who lived 2000 years ago, knew the limits of serving ourselves. That is why he said: “If I am only for myself, what am I?” My three days would only include one dedicated to myself.
On day number two, it would be time to widen my circle. This day would be about friends and family. Maybe I would use it to re-connect to people with whom I have lost touch. I have friends and relatives scattered throughout the country. My college roommate lives in Hawaii. And when you live far from the city where you grew up, it is hard to stay connected. On free day number two, I would sit down and write e-mails to all those people I have not spoken to in years.
This past December I received a card from a friend who lives in California. We had lost touch for a few years. It was a simple card, just to wish us Happy Holidays. But it made me feel really good.
Rabbi Hillel had something to say about widening your circle as well. The wise sage taught: “Do not separate yourself from the community.” And so on day number two I would reach out to those I care for and try to reconnect.
Finally we arrive at day number three, the last unexpected gift. On the third day, I would do something that I could be proud of. I am speaking of an act that makes the world a better place, even if just slightly. Maybe I would help the environment by changing a few of my old light bulbs to the new energy efficient ones. Or I would pick up some trash in Corona Park near my house in Queens, where people love to Bar-B-Que and then litter.
Another way I can participate in tikkun olam, repairing the world, is by visiting the HUC soup Kitchen. HUC is the rabbinic school in New York City where I studied for four years. Each Monday they run a soup kitchen for the homeless. Students and volunteers cook, set tables, and feed the homeless who come to for a free meal. At the soup kitchen, all who come for a meal are referred to as “guests,” to remind the volunteers that the homeless deserve the same respect as everyone else.
In my student days, I would volunteer at the soup kitchen occasionally, but not as much as I wanted or should. I think this is because helping the homeless is hard. It is difficult to face the reality of homelessness. It is much easier to ignore them and pass by a homeless person without looking. On my third “free day,” I would go to the soup kitchen and volunteer my time. Even a small effort to repair the world is always valuable.
It would be an amazing gift to have three unexpected days in my calendar. In our busy 21st Century lives, it is hard to find time to do anything for ourselves or for others. But we do not need three extra days. Judaism teaches us to make the most of each day, and to not put off for a moment the important tasks of repairing the world and connecting to those we care about. That is why the wise Rabbi Hillel also said: “If not now, when?”
P.S.: How would you spend an extra 3 days? To share your ideas, click on the “Comments” link just below and I’ll post what you write! To see the Trout Unlimited "3 extra days" contest webpage, CLICK HERE.