Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One Step At A Time

I couldn't do it. I just couldn't.

I've been with the chevra kaddisha for a while, and there is very little that fazes me. I've seen a lot. And most of the time, I get down to work and do what I am there to do. It never becomes routine, and I never get used to seeing the pain that people suffer, but I can put my feelings aside while I get the job done.

Sometimes, though, I can see at first glance that it will be difficult, and for a minute, I get a feeling of dread. Only for a minute. The feeling quickly passes, as I start doing whatever needs to be done.

This time, I was prepared in advance. I knew it would be difficult. But I had no idea how difficult until I was there. I took one look, and I knew I couldn't do it.

I looked around at the women who were there with me. I was the most experienced of the group, and they were watching me and waiting for my direction. It was up to me to get them started, to tell them what needs to be done and how we were going to do it. They were counting on me.

"I can't do this," I told them. "I can't do it."

I saw the look in their eyes turn to panic. One woman removed her apron.

"It's impossible," she said. "She's just going to have to buried the way she is. There's nothing we can do."

I was tempted to agree. I felt so overwhelmed...I had no idea how to accomplish what needed to be done. I didn't know where to start. But I knew this was my responsibility.

"No," I said, sounding more confident than I felt. "We can do it. We have to do it. Let's get started."

Thinking about the whole process and the ultimate goal was daunting, but I could think about the first step. We could start with one step, and worry about the next step when that was done.

We could do it. One step at a time.

It's like life, kind of.

Sometimes I look at my life, and I'm overwhelmed. There are so many things I need to fix, so much to do, so much I want to be. I look at my role models, and I know that this is how I would like to be some day. But it's daunting. I don't know where to start. It's too hard. I just want to give up.

But I know I can do it. One step at a time.

This is a lesson of the Chanukah menorah. We light one small flame at a time, representing small steps, but we aspire to ultimately kindle all of the candles.

The ultimate goal may be drastic change, but it has to be accomplished taking one step at a time.


  1. Wow. This is such a beautiful post and such an important message. Taking one step at a time, even a small step, will help us reach our goals. But…what happens when we fall back? It’s not always easy to move forward…sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back.

    I guess that’s part of life too. To keep trying and keep climbing. And to use those drops for springboards for growth-like a trampoline. Although we fall down, we can try to come out even higher, stronger and in a better place than we were before.

    Thank you for this message.

    1. Thank you, Devorah.

      I didn't think about falling back when I wrote the post, but I should have. And when that happens, it's so easy to just give up. But I think you're right - if we keep trying, we can end up even stronger.

  2. Beautiful message. I have been following your blog for some time I am very intrested in what you write about chevrah kaddishah. I am intrested in this very beautiful mizvah. Can you give me some information?

  3. I am wondering exactly like Devorah above. The lesson is important and beautiful, in theory. However, I wonder if it really works that way. What happens when we fall back? Not if, but when.

    1. I think Devorah pretty much answered her own question. But maybe she can come back and make things clearer :).

  4. Wowowow! I never heard that message from the menorah before. One step at a time. So simple yet so relevant.

  5. It’s a tough thing to clarify and I’m not sure if I could do it in one sentence but I can try…in short.

    Chaia, you’re right, it’s not IF we fall back, it’s when. Because although it would be nice if life was an upward ladder, real growth and change comes from those falls. Yes, we can throw our hands up, say it’s too hard to change (and then possibly fall down again) but then what do we have left? Where will we stand? If we want to come out better and stronger, we need to take those drops and do something with them. Sometimes we need to reach out to others for help (depending on the situation…and what the falling down was all about) and sometimes we need to dig deep inside ourselves and find strength we never knew we had…but we CAN come out stronger. It takes work and we have to want it. We have to think and ask ourselves…where do I want to be? What road do I want to take? Do I want to stay where I am or do I want to become better? How do I want to look when I am through with whatever I am dealing with?

    I just got a really good quote that I LOVE. “Just because we get knocked down does not mean we have to stay there.”

    It’s hard to give practical steps but I think the answer to this question of HOW lies in Mystery Woman’s post. Once we know that we don’t want to stay there and we want to move forward, we can start…one step at a time. Real change happens in baby steps.

    (Did I say I would try to make this short?! I don’t know HOW!! But…is it clearer now?)

  6. Thank you for that, Devorah. I can always count on you for the answers. Not short ones, maybe...but good ones.