A Message from Rabbi Norry: January 1, 2021

Everyone starts in the same place.

In Taekwondo (and other Black Belt martial arts), everyone begins their learning as a white belt. Age, gender, size, and physical ability…none of these things matter. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your profession, you start out in the back row, as a white belt. If you are not a martial artist, just so you know, it is no fun to be a white belt. You can feel silly and inadequate, you watch with envy as others do what you can only dream of doing, you throw the worst punches and the ugliest kicks. As an instructor, it was a common sight in class to see an adult student promoted from white belt to their first colored belt. I remember that feeling, and the excitement of having some basic achievements ‘under your belt.’ I remember being in the back row of the class, struggling to deliver even the most basic strike, and sometimes doubting if I would ever make it to my goal of black belt.

Some things are easier for me, others are harder.

What is true for Taekwondo is also true in life and in our spiritual practice and prayer life. Each of us is born a white belt, naked and helpless, with everything still to learn. Of course, not everyone is born into the same circumstances. Physical abilities, family, economic realities, genetics, and countless other factors give some advantages, and others obstacles.

We could argue all day about the systemic and personal impact of each one of these realities. And then, it would still be true that everyone begins as a white belt. The single most important question that each person must ask themselves is “What will I do?”, “How will I take that next step?”, “What will I learn next?”. It will be harder for some than others. Faster for some than others. More painful for some than others. Even impossible for some and not for others.

And yet, if you remain focused on where you began, your energy will remain in the last row, as a white belt. If, instead, you find the courage and the spirit to take the next step, throw the next kick, learn to pray more deeply, you can move steadily toward mastery.

Some people never become a yellow belt. They only know where they began, not where they want to go.  With this focus and attitude, nothing is beyond the reach of anyone, no matter what obstacles or advantages you do or don’t have. See you in the front row.