September 19, 2018

Be True To Your Past.

From 1979, the beginning of the Iranian revolution, until 1988, I spent most nights sleeping on the floor, bed-less.  With limited resources, I gave priority to other family members, over myself.

Friends ask why I tell such stories that can belittle me in public.  I like to write about my challenges growing up- the two decades my family struggled financially in tiny apartments- to make others aware that not all immigrant Iranians started with great wealth and that we should take pride in knowing how far we’ve come.

First born children, like myself,  grow up fast under life changing circumstances, skipping childhood, taking on the role of the family protector, catering to the needs of the parents as well as siblings-physically, financially, emotionally.  Not only does my background not diminish me, it actually serves as a source of strength.

I run into those who pretend they were always wealthy, that they never went to a public school, that they never took public transportation, that they did not celebrate a birthday at MacDonald’s, that they were royalty from day one.  I know their truth, and more importantly, so does God. Unlike them, I find pride in being true to my past.

My life is guided by Jewish spirituality. In the Fiddler, Tevye declares “…it's no shame to be poor.” Over and over again, our Torah tells us never to forget that we were once slaves in Egypt. The Bible does not tell us to look at King David's wealth as a source of arrogance or to boast about the royalty of Joseph or Moses in Pharaoh’s Palace. On the contrary, we are told that the reason Moses was God’s beloved, his secret- was humility.  We remember the Moses that took off his sandals by The Burning Bush, and not the prince in the courtyard. 

Judaism also teaches that all of life is becoming, not arriving.   Nachman of Breslov said “If you won't be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?”  My heart is filled with gratitude when I look back.

There are the wealthy who feel entitled to their luck.  Not me. I credit my success to my parents who gave me the biggest gift imaginable- The United States. The very fact that they chose to replant me in America and not in Europe or in any other country for that matter was the single most important element of my journey. They also gave me decent genes and supported my faith in the mystical beliefs of Judaism and in God.

Those who look back on their humble beginnings will remain grounded, and having reached the mountain top, will not cut the rope.  Rather, they will look back, reach out their hands toward those less fortunate and help them climb.