Reflecting on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday, I am reminded of several instances where the Queen left an impression and perhaps a lesson for us. I know that the relationship Americans have with the British monarchy is complex, but I was born and lived most of my life in Canada. For us, the Queen was ubiquitous. She was on our coins, our bills, our stamps, street and town names. When I was 8 years old, I can recall that for her 25th jubilee every child in Canada received a celebratory medallion. 20 years later when she visited my hometown of Toronto, I was serendipitously able to see her in person when she emerged from the Royal York Hotel as I was on my way to work. I remember being surprised by how small she was in person.
I believe that there are a number of lessons I can draw from her life, and perhaps all of us, including those for whom her royal title was less relevant, can emulate.
- Though small in stature, the Queen had an enormous impact on hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Charitable work and service to others were hallmarks of her monarchy and her personality. I'll take from that the imperative we all have to rise to challenges, no matter our stature or station in life.
- When she seemed behind the times, she quickly learned, and she always used her access to millions to unify, to praise, and to remember sacrifice and loss. One can take away from this the responsibility all of us have to use our 'megaphone', if we have one, for the common good.
- Up until recent years, the Queen undertook a daunting schedule, making sure to reach as many people in person as she could, encouraging those involved in communal endeavors to continue and broaden their good works. I know that a personal touch, a smile, a handshake and a word go very far in encouraging people to be the best they can for their community.
- It's something we can all do. Service starts early. During the Second World War, a young Princess Elizabeth served as a driver and mechanic in auxiliary service. That ethos never left her. I must credit my parents for bringing me to help with charitable events and endeavors they were involved in from a very early age, and it is something I have conveyed to my children as well.
As for the very real concerns about monarchy, or about privileged royal families, I'll leave that for another time and someone else to discuss. For us, and for now, I believe it is always useful to look for exemplars, people we can emulate in enriching our own lives and the lives of those around us. In that respect the Queen's passing is an opportunity to make or renew a commitment to that which helps communities thrive. Thanking you all for your ongoing commitment to our Jewish community here in Rockland, Shabbat Shalom