This I Believe

Jesse - brookine, Massachusetts
Entered on September 24, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

This I Believe

I have grown up with religion all around me. From the good luck prayers of my grandparents, to the Bar Mitzvah of my brother, the Jewish religion has been a major part of my family’s life — but not mine.

My father grew up in Jewish family in New Jersey, and my mother was raised in a Catholic family, also in New Jersey. She later converted to Judaism. Both families were pretty religious and both of my parents worshipped in houses of religion. My brother, who is eight years older than me, went through the normal journey of becoming a Jewish man — Hebrew school and a Bar Mitzvah — and never really questioned religion. But when the time came for me, I really wasn’t sure.

I watched as my friends started going to Hebrew school and doing their religious duties, and I sat on the sideline. It was always a question in the family, such as when we sat down to dinner and one of my parents might bring it up.

The defining moment never arrived when I could either choose the path of religion or not. It just sort of passed me by. When my friends started having their Bar-Mitzvahs, my parents would ask, “Do you wish you had one of those?” But I would always tell them that I wanted to do what I truly believed in: a life not led by religion. I still feel strongly about being a good person and doing what I think is right. But I don’t need religious rituals or figures telling me right from wrong.

When I used to see Mr. Butch on the streets of Allston, I would give him a few dollars from my pocket. He was a homeless legend, and I had seen him around the area for many years. I didn’t need a prayer book to tell me that was the right thing to do.

Whenever my parents ask me where I’m going on the weekends, I always tell them the truth. I never feel the need to lie about what I’m doing or whom I’m with. Trust is such an important part of life that people should know to be honest without someone else telling them it’s important.

Each time a friend needed help or had some dilemma that had to be worked out, I would try to lend a hand: from someone needing to borrow a bike, to a more serious problem that they might just need someone to talk to, such as a dispute with another friend. The Ten Commandments don’t need to tell me to help out others. I believe in doing it to be a good friend.

Organized religion can seem hollow and hypocritical. There will be Jews attending Yom Kippur services on Saturday, gathering to atone for their sins. Meanwhile, on Monday, some will return to being less than great citizens. As I’ve grown into being my own man, I’ve let my gut be my guide. So far, it hasn’t let me down.