Head of School Blog

Lessons in Gratitude – A Guest Blog by Noah Guzman

Noah Guzman Volume: 4 Issue: 9 November 12, 2014

Lessons in Gratitude – A Guest Blog by Noah Guzman

One of the many things that make our school special is our Spirituality program. Each week we gather for an assembly that frequently includes, among other things, a true story shared by a teacher about his/her life. During these stories one can typically hear a pin drop, as the students are silently transfixed on the anecdote being shared and are gaining a deeper understanding of the human being that is their teacher. This week Mr. Guzman shared a story about our Spirituality theme of Abundance and Gratitude that moved each and every member of the Middle School classes. As someone who knew Mr. Guzman when he was just a child, and as someone who had the pleasure of knowing his mom, Renata, I was deeply moved by his story and asked his permission to share it with all of you. I know that Renata would be honored and proud of the love and courage Mr. Guzman demonstrated in sharing this story with our students. When we left the church after the assembly, I am sure that we were all in touch with a sense of gratitude for having this wonderful teacher in our school community.

Something that has always resonated with me throughout my life but wasn’t specifically identifiable until I started working at All Saints was the concept of “Mitakye Oyasin,” that we are all related. It seems strikingly obvious and yet simultaneously outrageously impossible. I think that it is because of this that we are put here on this planet, to navigate that complex line - forging relationships and bonds as well as being utterly frustrated and bewildered by them. Humans are biologically complex beings as well, but I’m not talking about our vascular or circulatory systems, I’m talking about our instincts - our need to seek out the attention or comfort of others and experience solidarity and also our need to seek solitude and selfness. It is through these two ever dueling hard-wired instincts that we interact with ourselves and the world around us.

My mom was adopted. She was adopted as a six month old infant in Germany by a Jewish family from Greenwich Village in New York City. Need I say more? A peculiar situation at best. Though, like many of us, despite a convoluted home life, she was able to navigate the intracacies of her life and forge a unique existence as a dancer, an artist, a wife and a mother. However, somewhere within my mother’s brain, in a forgotten closet with its door left slightly ajar, there existed this wonder of where she came from. The obvious answer is Germany, of course, but she kept wondering from whom?

In 2005 my mom was diagnosed with cancer. This was an absolutely scary time for my family, but somehow within that enormous fear it became a time of strength and determination. It was an opportunity to live life to its fullest potential and to take a leap of faith that had only existed before in a closest in my mom’s brain. It was time she decided to find her biological family. For many years before, my mom made immense efforts to investigate her past and find her family, but every time she got really close it was as though she just missed them. This was an investigation that spanned Europe, the United States and finally went cold in Texas. I won’t go into more details as there are so many of them and so many years of research, but the main idea was that there had been significant groundwork done, when finally Hoboken Police Chief LaBruno, an old friend of our family, heard the story for the first time. It was after this story that he decided to make a phone call to a friend in Texas who was a sheriff and by that evening my mother was on the phone with her birth mother for the first time in almost fifty years.

Am I grateful for my mom’s illness? Certainly not. But that type of life-altering occurrence tends to have a profound affect on us all. It makes us, our world, and all of our supposed problems seem really, really small. And within that sudden and absolute smallness we realize we can do anything. Anything is possible. My mom is no longer here, but I am grateful for my mom’s indefatigable strength. I am grateful for the week I spent in Texas with my parents and my newly discovered aunt and grandparents. Not once were any of us upset by the fact we had lost so much potential time together. You’ve probably heard and will continue to hear this cliché: Life is strange. And if this is the first time you are hearing those words, it is, life is strange. It is strange and beautiful, just like all of us. We share in this beauty and this strangeness as one, because we are all related and for that I am grateful.