Stolen from Facebook, but remarkably pensive!
I met Dennis in August of 2014 at the first cohort of Taglit Fellows in Chicago. His reputation had preceded him--as a kind, quiet leader who always went on the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel ASL trips (though I didn't know why as of yet). It happened that Dennis and I were sitting at a table together in a random free moment (they rarely happened) and I took a chance: I introduced myself to Dennis and asked him to tell me his story. Who he was, what he believed in, why he was there. More surprisingly, Dennis was game. He told me about his family, his history in Hillel, his love of the ASL Birthright trip and his poetry. His tone was quiet, humble, and he never bragged--but the words he shared were meaningful and memorable. He then turned my own questions on me: what was my story?
I claimed mine wasn't so interesting yet--after all, I was still getting through it. Dennis pushed and so I shared my story...my ups and downs, my failures and flaws and what I've learned from them (and how to better some of them) and how I got to be at the Taglit Fellows conference in the first place. Dennis claimed that my story was more interesting than I had imagined--and that it might not matter that I was in the middle of it. If I were able to endure all of the challenges, the continuous ups and downs, I might be able to continue creating a fascinating and enlightening story.
This meant a lot coming from Dennis, who had a love of and knack for words. Words endure or years after they're spoken--and quiet/humble ones may be just as meaningful (if not more so) than loud and proud ones. Dennis has since also taken chances, enduring in his own way and on his own merit. I'm proud to call him a colleague and thrilled that he took a chance on an odd question in the middle of a Chicago conference!