As I waited for the gate to open, I looked up and saw my client’s building being repaired. Maintenance work started over six months ago. As I stopped and noticed, the phrase that came to mind was tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase I first heard from my friend Ossie Hanauer. The phrase translates to repair or mend the world.
The world that needs repair in this case has to do with the world that emerges as a result of the work of our hands. This world is in constant need of repair, mending, and maintenance. The recent tragedy at Surfside has brought this to light in a way that has horrified us.
The struggle the condo board faced having to do expensive repairs and holding back may have contributed to the collapse of the building and loss of life. Their struggle, however, points to the challenge we all face as we have to deal with issues that are not tackled by just individuals but through the effort that comes from a collective responsibility for the welfare and wellbeing of all.
In a society where we celebrate individual effort and responsibility, this is a challenge that constantly comes up. Responsibility for the commons, those spaces that we all share, are often overlooked, passed down the line for others to think about and repair.
Because of our abundance, we often believe that we can live without taking care of the commons. We do so at our collective peril. Tikkun olam can help us avoid these tragedies and when we fail to repair, return to what matters and is important. We are our sister and brother’s keepers after all.