Helen Keller, Shabbat Shalom, and the Importance of Doors…

I’m going to own it outright.  I’ve had a major case of writer’s block – 2-1/2 years or 30 months or 913 days if we’re counting.  It’s not that I haven’t thought about it.  I’ve kept a running list of blog topics with the idea that I would sit down and start typing.  Well, that never actually happened.  The list grew, of course, because it’s easy to jot down ideas.  One always feels a sense of accomplishment when lists are created, but that next blog post never got written.  Something happened this past Friday evening at the law school, though, that made me reflect on a topic on that list and I found myself connecting the dots.

Let me rewind to a conversation I had over a year ago (yes, I’m looking at that list and pulling an older topic) with an applicant I turned down.  I met her at an event prior to her filing an application.  Fast forward and I’ve read her application and I’m meeting her a year later at another event.  This time around she politely mentions that while she’s disappointed with our decision, she’s going to start her 1L year elsewhere and then has hopes of transferring  to Stanford.  She’s with a colleague and between the two of them I learn of her detailed plan to study hard at this particular law school, to put her head down and plow forward – all in an effort to get to Palo Alto a year later.  I listen to what she’s saying and I can tell she’s thought this through and she’s got everything all neatly lined up.  One foot in front of the other, day in and day out, with all steps leading to SLS.

I love a plan, but there was something tickling at me, a tingling feeling – maybe even a finger nails on the chalkboard kind of feeling.  I was thinking of something Helen Keller wrote and decided to take the conversation in a different direction by invoking her words.  Now, to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure that what I was about to say was attributable to Helen Keller, but I was more than 50% sure so I went with it.  As it turns out, the colleague that this person was with was a self-avowed Hellen Keller fan and she got her pen out, ready to take notes and was just waiting for my words of wisdom.  I can’t repeat here what I said to myself at that moment. Remember I’m just over 50% sure I know what I’m talking about.  Anyway, what could I do but proceed, right?  So, I started talking about this notion that when one door closes another opens; that we sometimes focus so much on the door that closed that we pay scant attention to the door that has opened.  Make the most of your 1L year, don’t be concerned about the transfer process.  Go into your first year becoming part of your new community – find your place.  Walk through that door that has opened and make a home in that community.  See how life unfolds.  I wasn’t telling her to give up on her plans, but instead to just approach what was in front of her in a different way.  [I googled Helen Keller and the phrase later that evening, by the way, and have moved way past my 50% certainty.]

On this past Friday evening at SLS, the Jewish Law Students Association hosted a community-wide Shabbat dinner to remember the lives lost at Tree of Life in Squirrel Hill and to reflect on hate-based violence.  To say the evening was evocative and powerful would be an understatement.  The speakers were eloquent and they spoke from the heart.  A 2L spoke about living in a Moishe House in that very same neighborhood and what she said resonated with me.  She spoke about how the doors of that house were always open.  A knock on the door simply meant that the visitor was coming by for the very first time.  And I thought about the community I had been born and raised in and remembered that many, many homes in my town were just like that.  When new people arrived, doors were flung open for them, too. I looked around at all who had gathered in Crocker Garden on Friday evening and I thought how fortunate each of us there were to have the doors of our home open to all.

If you’ve gotten this far in the blog, you’ve learned the importance of doors.  You’ve also learned that if you ever find yourself in your 1L year and you’re thinking of applying as a transfer, take advantage of that door that opened and make the most of your time there.  Put the idea of transferring on the back burner and enjoy what’s in front of you.  And, at the very least, when you walk through that door, find a home – or make a home – if even for just the year.  Knock on other doors.  Participate.  Engage.  Don’t let life pass you by.  Just as important, remember to always make sure that doors are open and to let others in.

Before I end this post, let me continue a tradition I have with the first blog of each season.  I leave you with something to get you into the mood for a possible move to this great state of ours.  If you’re already experiencing the California life, just enjoy Roy Orbison and his one-of-a-kind voice.