“In honor of the Jews, we should rename all of our bridges ‘Passovers.’”
So, says one of my heroes, legendary (and hilarious) 87-year-old pianist, Les McCann. Someone I’ve been incredibly lucky to befriend this past decade. Getting to know Les has been one of the greatest blessings of my life and is one of the many unexpected rewards that came as a direct result from working through a difficult period in my life, my adolescent struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder.
During that debilitating period, the music of people like Les was one of the only things that was able to bring a moment of peace and joy into my day. At the time, my working hard to free myself from OCD (via behavior therapy) was done simply because I longed to feel normal and better, but I never could have anticipated the far-reaching rewards and benefits that going through that experience would bring into all aspects of my life.
Looking back on it now, OCD was nothing more than the greatest opportunity to strengthen my mind and myself, and I’m truly grateful to have had that experience. During my darkest days, I never could have anticipated being thankful for the darkness, but I am.
The story of Passover has always resonated with me. Back then it inspired me, reminding me that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Today, looking back over the past 2000-ish years of Jewish History, knowing that our current journey began with the brave decision to leave Egypt and step into the unknown, the story serves as a motivating reminder of all the unexpected rewards and possibilities that can come from facing one’s fears and taking that first step into the darkness in search of the light.
Joe Alterman is an internationally acclaimed jazz pianist & executive director of Neranenah Concert & Culture Series.