Nathan Stern
Nathan Stern August 28, 2015

I went to Israel on the Israel Study Tour (a Colorado high school trip) when I was 16. The trip contained many incredible moments and experiences, but one that stood out particularly was traveling to Safed, the city in which Jewish Mysticism, or Kabballah, began. Part of our tour involved visiting a local artist, who created a number of compelling drawings relating to the teaching of Kabballah. I remember being drawn to many of the images, but the one that struck me most (and that I ended up bringing home) was one relating to giving and receiving.

The drawing is bisected vertically, with the bottom half featuring a white Chai (the Hebrew word for life) on a black background, and the top half featuring a black Chai on a white background. The symbolism behind the drawing is that the bottom half symbolizes a life in which a person derives pleasure by receiving, while the top half symbolized a life in which a person derives pleasure by giving. The goal is to transcend from a life of receiving to a life of giving, a feat that is easier said than done. The drawing hangs in my bedroom where I can see it every day, so the symbolism is never lost on me, but I think I’ve made only gradual (and turbulent) progress to achieving that aim.

In theory, the journey would be a perpetual upward climb, with each day bringing me a little closer to living for others. It’s hard to look back and know whether that has been the case, and I fear that it hasn’t – I live each day pretty much how I lived the last. It’s more in the big moments where I’m confronted with the reality that my life needs to change in a big way in order to fulfill my obligations to those around me, and in turn live less for myself.

Sometimes, as was the case with getting married, there is a ceremony in which the responsibilities (vows) are marked and clearly elucidated. There are others, like moving in with a partner or getting a dog which are less formally commemorated but bear a great deal of responsibility as well. It is big life events that give us the greatest opportunity to take responsibility over our commitments and duty to others. We can work and hope to look out for others, from family members to friends to coworkers to complete strangers, with the same fidelity as someone who we have directly committed to care for.

All of this has been put into perspective more recently as my wife, Brooke, and I get ready to welcome our first child into the world. Of all the moments in life, the birth of a child is the single greatest instance where I will transition from a life of receiving to a life of giving. It is incredibly humbling, terrifying and exciting to have another human life totally dependent on Brooke and I, and I hope that we can grow from being parents in a way that makes us more generous human beings to everyone around us. I know the process won’t be smooth, and it most certainly won’t be easy, but I hope it leads to changes in ourselves in which our grandparents to our child and everyone in between will be proud.

Nathan Stern
Nathan Stern

A native of Colorado, Nathan attended Cherry Creek High School and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill before returning to Denver in 2009.  He works as a commercial real estate broker with Feder Commercial Realty Advisors focusing on retail properties, and enjoys playing board games, bar trivia, and team sports in his free time.  Nathan lives in Denver with wife Brooke, dog Bozzy, and is excited to become a father in September!