Yesterday I watched Susan Cain’s TED talk on The Power of Introverts.

I have watched this talk a couple of times before, but this time, I was struck by the story she shares of her grandfather.

Towards the end of the talk she says the following about her grandfather:

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My grandfather was a rabbi and he was a widower who lived alone in a small apartment in Brooklyn that was my favorite place in the world when I was growing up, partly because it was filled with his very gentle, very courtly presence and partly because it was filled with books. 

I mean literally every table, every chair in this apartment had yielded its original function to now serve as a surface for swaying stacks of books. Just like the rest of my family, my grandfather’s favorite thing to do in the whole world was to read.

But he also loved his congregation, and you could feel this love in the sermons that he gave every week for the 62 years that he was a rabbi. He would takes the fruits of each week’s reading and he would weave these intricate tapestries of ancient and humanist thought. And people would come from all over to hear him speak.

But here’s the thing about my grandfather. Underneath this ceremonial role, he was really modest and really introverted — so much so that when he delivered these sermons, he had trouble making eye contact with the very same congregation that he had been speaking to for 62 years. 

And even away from the podium, when you called him to say hello, he would often end the conversation prematurely for fear that he was taking up too much of your time. 

But when he died at the age of 94, the police had to close down the streets of his neighborhood to accommodate the crowd of people who came out to mourn him. And so these days I try to learn from my grandfather’s example in my own way. 

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This part really struck a chord with me and stuck with me for most of the today. I don’t know why, but it did.

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