THE BLOG
12/17/2014 03:07 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2015

Hanukkah: 8 People Who Give Me Hope

Most of us have seen and heard the mighty kerfuffle of the Sony hack and the embarrassing emails that have been published. Of her racially insensitive comments, Amy Pascal said that's not "who I am" and her words really rang in my ears and gave me pause.

We would all like to BE the values that we hold so dearly. Courage, kindness, inclusiveness, hope, strength. But the truth is we aren't all those good things 100% of the time - not even close.

I admire Pascal for admitting that something she said in private was a stupid, bad thing to say or even think. If all of us who purport - and try - to be good all the time were exposed, I think there would be a great deal of apologizing going on.

It is not a failure to be less than you want to be or imagine yourself as. It's human. Until the Singularity arrives, I am afraid we are stuck with ourselves. This is who we are.

It's not easy to keep believing that we as individuals much less as a whole can be good and kind and intelligent and fair as much of the time as we would like to. In the face of so much upheaval all over the world, it's much easier to lie down in the snow of giving up than it is to keep on going and keep on trying to improve.

The rituals of life are one way we can try, though.

Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the lights. It is a time when I literally and figuratively kindle the light to remind myself that life is good and that humans do more good things than bad. That we are complex and weird and that the story is not yet written. That every person who pursues their dreams or tries to make a difference in his or her own way is an act of tikkun olam - healing the world. And that's all we can do really, in the face of such darkness, is to be an individual light.

I am particularly drawn to people who do good and interesting things not because there is some pay off or reason but just because they are passionately engaged with their lives.

I come across delightful people almost every day. People just doing their thing happily, like the Israeli bus driver who greets everybody who gets on the bus and plays American doo-wop music every time I'm on his bus. Because he likes it.

So I had a think. Who else? Who is around me right now that I may not be paying attention to, who is doing what they love and making a difference? What if I really made a list? What if I focused on the positive?

In honor of the eight nights of Hanukkah, these are eight people that make my list:

Hannah, the young woman who cut my hair in Jerusalem the other day, who came to Israel to study the psychology of Chasidut. Young, rosy cheeked and enthusiastic, living in the holy city, so filled with tension, she studies at Hebrew University and tells me all about her studies as the scissors snip away. So young. So full of hope.

Yosef Halper, the owner of a Tel Aviv institution - Halper's Books - a mecca for passionate bibliophiles and rare book collectors. Yosef made me a cup of turkish coffee and showed me his packed to the rafters store that has books in four languages and some rare, signed books. He is, he said, living his dream. And mine as well, I might add.

My friend, Issamar Ginzberg, who just happens to also be a Rabbi living in Jerusalem, who also just happens to be a business strategy and marketing guru and public speaker. Issamar totally defies convention and embraces who he is and once did me a great kindness just because he could.

Nadav Dakner, the wunderkind 28 year old content marketing guru who, like so many young Israelis in Start Up Nation, balances his professional life with his military duties with élan, courage and dedication as if it were nothing.

Joel Haber, who left Hollywood, came to Israel and leads walking tours because he loves Israel, history, cooking and mostly people. Joel totally reinvented himself and is generally out in the sun showing tourists the wonders of antiquity and locals the best place to dine in the shuk in Jerusalem. They don't call him Fun Joel for nothing.

Deena Levenstein - dearest Deena - who hosts gatherings in Jerusalem, of poetry, fiction and nonfiction readings because it gives her joy to create a space for that and it enriches the community.

Dara Frank, the young woman who volunteers copious amounts of time for a peace organization in which Palestinians and Israelis take historic tours of the land together. Why does Dara do it? Simply because it gets people to talk and to encounter another point of view and that's a good thing, even if it feels like shouting into the wind.

And the Maccabeats, an a cappella group of former Yeshiva University Students who make uplifting Jewish themed music because they love to sing and perform. And because when I sent the a fan email they answered right away and were so emphatically joyful about what they do.

People like this are heroes to me - not because they are saving lives or discovering planets, but because they are doing what they love for no other reason than that.

We can't control what happens on this crazy blue marble but we can choose where to focus our attention. In a world where so much seems to be going wrong, just doing what you love is in itself an act of courage.

This is the perfect time of year to ask ourselves - am I being what I value? Is this who I am?

It's okay if the answer is no. Because you can change that.

Just look around for inspiration at the seemingly ordinary people in your life who defy convention by being who they are and doing what they love. They are everywhere. You just have to lift your eyes and look.