Blog  How NFTY Convention Changed Me

How NFTY Convention Changed Me

By Marlana Fireman, NFTY-OV Religious & Cultural Vice President

I recently embarked on the trip of a lifetime. As cliche as it sounds, it’s true. I woke up at 5:15am on a Friday and sped off into the night to the Port Columbus International Airport to begin my journey to Los Angeles, California for NFTY Convention 2013. I joined about 900 reform Jewish teens from around the world as well as about 300 staff members on an adventure that surely changed my life. The weekend was unforgettable, but someone particularly incredible stuck out in my mind:

Marc Elliot, a former NFTY-ite and inspirational speaker. Marc has Tourette Syndrome, and has spent a good part of his life speaking to teens and college students about tolerance and his motto, “live and let live”. What stood out to me most about Marc’s speech was when he said this: “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a very hard battle.” (Plato) Instantly I was in shock. If any life-changing epiphany was going to smack me right in the face, this was definitely it. I realized it was time for me to do just what Plato (and Marc) said. Be kinder than necessary. I started to think, isn’t that what Judaism is about? If we’re all made b’etzelem elohim, in God’s image, then we as humans have been made to love each other, and more importantly, ourselves. Listening to Marc, and feeling so deeply moved and inspired that I was almost in tears, I began to reevaluate myself. I wondered how different I’d be as a person if I had been kinder than necessary every day of my life leading up to that Saturday.

I decided it was too late to dwell on the past, and just soon enough to start respecting my future.

The following day we went to our offsite locations and proceeded to go to Universal Studios. I vowed that I’d be kinder than necessary. I made a simple promise to myself that even if someone annoyed me to no end, stepped on my feet, or cut me in line for the best ride ever (which turned out to be the Transformers ride), I’d be kinder than I needed to be.

I have a fair amount of experience with being bitter, snarky, sarcastic, rude, and sometimes even mean, and I’m aware of how easy it can be to treat others badly. I was taken by absolute surprise that being kind was even easier. Now, I’m not saying that I’m always a rude or mean person, but I know that my days full of negativity outweigh my positive ones. Being kinder than necessary was surely a conscious vow, but I took the quote as a challenge rather than letting it go in one ear and out the other.

The following days I began to notice a change in my actions and my thoughts. When someone said or did something that annoyed me and made me want to be sarcastic or rude, I found myself writing it off rather than being snarky or snide. I noticed a filter being built in my mind with the quote embroidered into it. I noticed the people around me and how much they’d benefit with being kind to one another. How much they’d benefit from respecting one another. As they days go by with this quote etched into my mind the word “kindness” has been growing and evolving into respect.

As I vow to live by this quote I am reminded that being kinder than necessary is easier to be than any rude words your mind can conjure up. Being kinder than necessary is remembering that we’re made in God’s image. Being kinder than necessary is treating your peers with respect and kindness. It’s being kind to and loving your family, your acquaintances, your friends, and even the people you consider your enemies. Being kinder than necessary is being kind to yourself, and every single person around you.

So, as cheesy and possibly stupid it sounds, I dare you to go a day being kind.

Really think, really try, really be conscious, and see what difference it makes.