“The block that the builders discarded has become a cornerstone” (Tehillim/Psalm 118:22). What is this quote about? Something just occurred on campus that gives us one remarkable response. The other day, I saw a visitor at our school who is looking at the possibility of transferring. This wasn’t just any student, he was a player on a rival team in a very competitive sport. However, within minutes of his walking into the halls, he was approached by members of our own team, who recognized him from their interactions in competition. He was greeted warmly, welcomed and engaged in genuine conversation. Here was a rival, a competitor, one easily perceived as one to be “discarded” and instead he was received as a potential “cornerstone”. The value here is one you’ve heard before and know well, “everyone deserves a chance”.
What this example also illustrates, however, are two more related points articulated by the State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia Counseling Center regarding the value of giving others a chance. The first is the amplified power of this value when it is accompanied by a feeling of being a part of a larger team. While these athletes may have been pitted against one another in one context, they were able to see themselves as part of the same, larger team of the Jewish community, high school students doing their best, or simply lovers of the same sport. This ability allowed there to be connection instead of aggression and reaching out instead of shutting down. The second point is about holding our personal feelings aside for a moment to make space for perceiving and understanding what is going on in the present. While I do not know what, if any prior feelings may have existed between these students, it was clear that all were open to new possibilities created by the visiting student’s presence.
“The block that the builders discarded has become a cornerstone”. This wonderful encounter offers us a profound understanding of what this verse is driving at. How does the once discarded block become a cornerstone? We give it a chance, we think about how it is part of the same structure we are and we put aside the thought of its being once “discarded” for a moment so we can see new possibilities of building together. If you recognize yourself as one of the students in this story, thanks for the lesson!
Think about it/מחשבה– This week, when we interact with people we are in competition with, let’s say clearly in our minds “we are on the same team”. In the evening, take time to note in a journal or some other mechanism, what the effect of this phrase on our interaction was like.
Try it/מעשה– Let’s find an opportunity to give someone a chance in a new way this week. Maybe it is the chance for someone to share an idea we might usually dismiss or maybe it is a chance for someone to prove they can do something. Whatever it might be, let’s support the possibility of a new “cornerstone”.