In the end, if you’re a great triathlete and a crappy person, then no one will care if you’re a great triathlete. Being a good sport is a lesson I learned early on. It’s about respecting the other athletes and abiding by the established rules. Being a good person is something that takes a lot more practice and refining. The rules are not defined. There is one rule that stands out among the rest, but it is subjective and often clouded by ego – the Golden Rule.
Every time I think I have grown as a person and become better at treating others, I realize that I have a lot more to go. Even in this mourning period when this latest intense lesson is top-of-mind, I still catch myself falling into the trap of not following the Golden Rule. Out of everyone who I have ever met, the person who stands out the most with the highest ability to follow the Golden Rule is Grandma Alice, who passed away last week at the ripe age of 96. With that in mind, my brother and I put together this Eulogy in her honor. It took about a minute to read, but if you are pressed for time, skip to the last paragraph:
I am Mark Reisman, Grandma Alice’s first grandchild. I am also speaking on behalf of my brother David, who contributed to this while he is on a Social Work internship in Thailand. Our words cannot do the Legend of Alice Schoenwald justice. You all knew her and probably agree. Her magnetic personality made you feel better. She claims to have gotten this gift from her mom and couldn’t comprehend that she lived up to her.
Throughout the years she made self-deprecating comments. When we corrected her, time and time again she said that we should work for the diplomatic services. But the nice things we said about her were certainly true. As my brother put it, she was that special, and sometimes I think everyone knew it but her.
When we were kids, we remembered going to visit our grandparents in Glenview, IL. I loved their house, it was so warm and cozy in the winter. It was split level, so they had a basement, which was my favorite part of the house – especially because we don’t have them in California. She was a great cook back in her day. We loved her crepes and her chicken soup. Lucky for her grandchildren, she passed that gift of cooking, and several of her recipes, on to her three daughters.
She stopped cooking when they moved to California. It was a shame, because it was so good. But Doctor Alice still made her Jewish penicillin, even if she couldn’t cook chicken soup any more. As long as she could talk, she was living. And if she was living, she made others happy.
My wife, Esther, and I are proud of being able to name her first Great Grandchild Abraham, after our grandfather. Of course Grandpa Abe wouldn’t know, but Grandma Alice, who had made sure she held on to life until at least one Great Grandchild was born, was thrilled! And we have a daily reminder of their legacy that will live on.
I think her dying wish is for everyone to be happy. And her formula to happiness is helping others to be happy. If you can affect someone like that every chance you get, you will be a stronger, happier person yourself. I challenge you to live up to The Alice Schoenwald standard of happiness. Be a kind, caring person every chance you get. Show appreciation to people you wouldn’t normally. Listen to them and understand them. Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone has some goodness in them. What can you do to bring that out of them and make them feel special? Whether they are a stranger, acquaintance, friend or family member, consciously think of Alice Schoenwald this next week. Notice how others react to you and notice how you feel. Make it a habit and that may give you the happiness and strength to sustain you for 96+ years.