Don’t Mess with the Penguins
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program, is the founding rabbi of Kol HaNeshamah in West Seattle, Washington. He is returning to his hometown of Minneapolis next month to assume the pulpit at Shir Tikvah Congregation. He can be reached at email@example.com
It was the height of the rabbinic “busy season” (when isn’t it, really?), September of 2006. I was working the usual “insane” hours in the midst of the Yamim Noraim, shuttling my then almost three-year-old, Noa, from day-care to an endless series of baby sitters and play dates so I could work.
As fate would have it, one early morning over oatmeal, Noa made me promise that on Sunday, I would take her to the zoo. March of the Penguins was her obsession. “Daddy,” she looked up at me with full sincerity, “I need to see the penguins.” I nodded in compliant exhaustion.
Sunday arrived and Noa was up early. A precocious child, she was dressed early and ready to go. I, of course, had to check email several times and talk on the phone. There was a latest “important” crisis I had to deal with (because, in my inflated sense of self, I was the only one who could address the situation adequately). It would only take a few minutes, I promised.
Noa’s patience wore thin. After a few minutes turned into hours, she was fed up with cartoons and my endless “just one more phone call, sweetheart” delays. When I stepped away for a moment, Noa took my cell phone from the kitchen table and promptly dropped it. Into the toilet.
“We need to go to the zoo NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW DAADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDY,” she pronounced. “NO MORE TALKING. I need to see the PENGUINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNS!”
I stared at my shiny cell-phone in the toilet bowl. I looked at my beautiful daughter. We had a good long hug and a robust laugh. It was the most important defining leadership moment of my career. And my life.
We had a fabulous day at the zoo, visiting the penguins .