My Book about Me
When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was a children’s book called, My Book about Me. With words by Dr. Seuss and art by Roy McKie, it gave children the chance to be part of the collaboration. It had a bunch of blanks that you could fill in and tell the reader about yourself – assuming there would be reader at some point.
I used to read it and reread it. I would fill in the blanks when I could though I didn’t draw any of the pictures it asked you to. Those were mostly done by someone else. I really like the book, but the funny thing was that it wasn’t my book and it wasn’t about me.
You see, the book had belonged to my brother, and he probably filled it in years before when he was my age. I don’t recall all the things in the book, but some were pretty basic. Saying “I have black hair,” was close to my brown, though today he’s got a lot more of it than I do. I don’t remember the favorite color he wrote, but I would pretend it was mine.
When it said, “My best friend’s name spelled backward is:” my brother had written, in childish block letters, “NEVETS YVEL.” I would read it out loud as it was written and chuckle at the silliness. Steven Levy was a lot older than me but I still enjoyed the book, and I enjoyed reading my brother’s answers.
I think a “book about me” is important for children because they need to learn that they have their own identities. They should get to know who they are and recognize that it’s important for others to be able to see them as individuals.
While I got plenty of my share of the limelight, I also spent much of my childhood in the shadow of others. I was the Rabbi’s son, and in yeshivah I was “Danny’s brother.” I recall wanting to be like him so much that even in my high school graduation picture I stood the same way he did when he graduated.
At some point, I developed my own self-awareness, and baruch Hashem I’m happy being who I’m supposed to be, at least as well as I can. Without that, we would never find our own unique missions, so that’s why the “book about me” is important for kids.
However, I think as we grow older, it becomes less important. We should start to think less about who we are and more about who others are. We should be interested in others and let them know that we think they’re special.
Some people come into a room and say, “Here I am!” But the happiest people come into a room and say, “Ahhh… There you are!” They make other people the focus instead of themselves. It makes people feel so good that they actually change and become better people.
Aharon HaKohain would famously befriend sinners without any mention of their deeds. They would start to feel that if Aharon knew the things they’d done he wouldn’t be so kind. Not wishing to lose his friendship, they would change. But that was just the beginning.
Some people would think to themselves, “If Aharon sees something worthwhile and good in me, it must be there.” They would start to look for the good in themselves and rewrite their “book about me.” They would redefine themselves, and though we may not realize it, any of us can follow his lead and help to effect that change in people.
“Well,” you might ask, “who am I to do such a thing? I’m not Aharon!” The answer to that is easy. You CAN be like Aharon. Each of us has a wellspring of good things inside. Each of us is created in the image of Hashem Who gives life and opportunities to all mankind. We should not settle for mediocrity when we were born to be great. That’s why we need to write and read our own book about ourselves so we recognize our strengths.
There’s an interesting twist to this. The more we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on others, the more worthy of focus we become. When we make people think highly of themselves, they will remember it, and think highly of us for giving them the gift of believing in them and in their innate distinction.
In time, we will find ourselves being defined not by who we are, but by how we make others feel. In fact, not only will it be how others see us, but it will become a primary aspect of our own self-image and worth.
I think it’s time we all tried to add another chapter to My Book about Me. It should be one that takes the reader as well as the author to new heights, sees them rising to new challenges, and discovering new strength and beauty within them. Then the ending will almost write itself: “And they all lived happily ever after.”
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