The View From Here | Getting Off the Sidelines and Playing Well


My daughter has a habit of returning home with lost things. She’s typically interested in giving them a home, as with the cat that ended up adopting us two months ago or the birds, two months prior, that no one wanted anymore.

On Sept. 3, it was a mangled credit card, cracked and bent with tire marks. She’d picked it up on the street while crossing an intersection and was concerned that someone would use it for a nefarious purpose. Now that she had it, she wanted to know what to do with it.

“Let’s call the company on the back,” I said. “They can tell us what to do.”

After a few minutes navigating a customer service menu that curiously did not have an option for reporting a stolen or missing credit card, I got a friendly representative on the other end of the phone. At first, she didn’t know what to do, but after a brief time spent on hold she came back, took the number and then said to cut up and dispose of the card.

“Thank you for calling about this,” she said. “I’m so surprised that anyone would care.”

Had the woman on the other end known that we were Jewish, the encounter would have been a perfect example of a kiddush Hashem, a sanctifying of God’s name through the public performance of a mitzvah. My daughter saw it instead as bringing a little goodness to the world, something made all the more important by the fast-approaching holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

For me, it was a chance to appreciate the innate goodness of my child, the customer service representative and, by extension, the rest of mankind. And in my line of work — and given the times we live in — such opportunities seem harder and harder to come by.

But what is it that characterizes that good in each of us, buried as the case may be by so many personality flaws, regrets and the passage of time? And why is it that it can be so rare to bubble up to the surface?

Has goodness itself become harder to see? Or has goodness always been the underdog in the world?

To borrow from the recent experiences of the Philadelphia Eagles and the city that loves them, ultimate victory came when the historic underdogs did what had eluded them time and time again in the moments that mattered: They looked out for one another, particularly along the offensive line, giving whomever the quarterback was — first, Carson Wentz, and then, Nick Foles — time to make his reads downfield. And this was a feature sorely absent in the preseason, when a woefully shorthanded line couldn’t protect the pocket for Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

Just which one of the Eagles will make their pre-New Year appearance when they open the season against the Atlanta Falcons? Will it be the underdogs of last season, who functioned as a unit, and brought joy to the game? Or will it be the team of ones, flush with book deals and the glow of past glories?

Boy, do I hope it’s the former. For if football is a metaphor for life — and how could it not be in the City of Brotherly Love? — we would all be better served by being a little less haughty, a little more committed to each other and a lot more concerned with doing the right thing, even when the official of all officials isn’t watching.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may we all have a happy, healthy and sweet New Year.

Shanah tovah. 

Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected]


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