Monday, November 5, 2012

To Give Or Not To Give

I spent my day yesterday getting gas.

All day. Seven hours.

I didn't even come prepared. I didn't bring anything to do or read while I waited. I had no idea I would wait that long. Had I known, I would never have gotten on that line. I wasn't even that desperate for the gas.

So I had plenty of time to watch the people outside my window. I got to know the drivers of the cars around me. I watched how people who started the day smiling became irritable as the day wore on. I witnessed the fight that broke out when someone cut the line and patience was wearing thin. I observed the man two cars ahead of mine who got out and pushed his car every time the line inched forward so as not to use whatever gas he had, and who, after waiting five hours, chose to leave.

Then, about three hours into my wait, I watched a man and his little girl walk from car to car offering candy and chocolate. And suddenly, the mood lifted, and there were smiles. People got out of their cars and talked to other drivers.

One small act of kindness, so much light.

Why did he do it?

Last week, my son and his friends drove to Sea Gate, an area that was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and helped some of the residents pack their belongings and load the trucks so they could leave.


Why did they leave their comfortable, dry yeshiva building to go help some people they didn't even know?

Why do we give?

In this week's parsha, Eliezer asks Rivka for some water from the well. She notices that he is leading a whole caravan of thirsty camels, and she voluntarily brings enough water for Eliezer and all of his camels. She had one motivation - to give to someone else with kindness.

Giving leads to caring. Every time we give, we invest ourselves in the lives of others and we become deeper and richer for it.

But the more we give, the more we care, and the more we open ourselves up to hurt.

The Chasam Sofer once did an enormous favor for someone, who later asked him, “What can I ever do to repay you for your kindness?” The Chasam Sofer replied, “One day, when you get upset and angry with me, please remember what I have done for you today. And, rather than pelting me with big rocks, please throw small stones instead.”

I don't give in order to receive. I don't give because I want the appreciation. A thank you can feel so rewarding, but it is not the reason I give.

But I am human.

I don't need the thank you, but when I am pelted with rocks, it hurts.

I sometimes think about protecting myself, about being more careful with how much I give and not opening myself up to hurt. I'm only human. this the kind of person I want to become? Is this who I want to be?

So when I find myself faced with the opportunity to do someone a favor, and a little voice inside me says, "She doesn't appreciate what you do for her," I won't listen and I will do it anyway. And when the voice says, "He will pelt you with big rocks," I won't listen and I will do it anyway.

When I have the opportunity to give, I will give.

I will do it because it is the right thing. And because that is the kind of human I want to be.


  1. From everything I've heard and seen, I'm glad that I filled up right before the storm, and still have gas left...but for the second half of this post, all I can think was: "Mmm, chocolates :) "

  2. First off, seven hours?!? Whoa. I decided to wait until the panic subsides to fill up (and limit the amount I use my car) and now I can fill up with no line at all! (I totally get that someone would get on the line not realizing how long it will be and then not being willing to admit defeat after all the time wasted.)

    Second, I'm glad that you're that kind of human :-).

  3. Sounds like you had a bad experience. Don't let it discourage you. As a therapist, it's something I have had to get used to. Keep doing what's right!

  4. WM...

    I had enough gas that I did not need to wait 7 hours for more, but now that I have a full tank, I'm happy.


    Maybe I should have just gone to where you are. I still would have saved time. Here, the lines are still blocks long.

    Thank you. I appreciate that.


    I will. Although it isn't something I want to get used to. I'd like to believe most people are not like that.

  5. A little late but wanted to weigh in here. In my opinion there are times it's not about being a good person. Some people have an 'es kumt mir' attitude. They ask for favors very easily with no discomfort and they are not appreciative and if they get angry for anything, real or imagined, they will throw rocks, no matter what you did for them. Is it a mitzvah to give to someone like that? I don't think so.

  6. I agree with you about the attitude, but my point was not whether or not it would be a mitzvah. It was about the kind of person I want to be. I want to be able to give - not only without expecting appreciation - but even knowing I will be pelted with rocks. I don't know if I'm there yet, but I'm working on it.

  7. " I don't need the thank you, but when I am pelted with rocks, it hurts. "

    i didnt read the whole post, but i LOVE this line.

  8. Did you know that sometimes, it hurts just as much to know that you are the one hurting someone else?

    I know it.

    I know there were times I threw those pebbles…or rocks…or even boulders. It’s a heavy burden to carry. To know that I was the one who did it.

    I know when I have to be open and communicate with my mom-and whatever I’m going to tell her is really gonna hurt her-it causes me so, so much pain. It hurts to see so much pain written all over her face…and to know that she’s gonna take that pain along with her and keep it in her heart for a long time. And that’s just a small example.

    It hurts to know you are hurting someone who did a crazy amount of good for you. Someone who means a lot to you…someone you love. But sometimes, you don’t have a choice. It’s not always about choices. And it hurts really strongly to know that.

    1. Honestly, I didn't think about that side of it.

      But...I don't know... I think it usually is about choice. Even talking to your obviously felt that it was the right thing for you. You knew it would hurt her, but you weighed it and you made a choice. That was your choice.

      Maybe, sometimes, there are other ways of doing what is right that would hurt less. Maybe when someone does a lot for us, we have an obligation to make sure we don't hurt them. Or maybe not. I don't know...

  9. If you didn’t think about that side of it, maybe you didn’t get to think about the whole other side of it. Which is hard when you’re hurting and I understand that...but there IS another side.

    Sometimes the choices are clear cut and it’s easier to make that decision to go ahead with saying things that may hurt…when you can figure out what the outcome of that will be. It’s hurt for a purpose and it makes sense in your head. So you do it, even if it’s hard. And you hope that it will be worth it in the end…because sometimes you have to make yourself vulnerable and go through painful conversation to improve a relationship.

    But when things get way past the logical side of the brain and move to the emotional side of the heart, it is so much more confusing…and so much harder to make rational decisions. That’s when it’s not about real choices anymore.

    And…what about when you tried all the options you can think of? Each one hurts in a different way…and you can’t just choose simply anymore. Life is not a neat test of multiple choice questions where you choose one right answer…it’s a LOT more confusing than that.

    It’s hard to imagine or even understand the other side when you’re the one getting those rocks…but when it’s so much more complicated, please realize that there IS another side.

    I am not someone who wants to hurt-ever. It’s not what I want. But sometimes, I really don’t have a choice. Really.

    1. I do realize there is another side. I do. I'm sorry my comment sounded insensitive.

      And I believe you are not someone who wants to hurt.

  10. It’s okay. I’m sorry I gave you such a mouthful. I just have a hard time hearing that it’s a choice when really…it’s not about me and MY choices anymore. I’m kinda stuck in a hard place.

    Thank you for realizing that there is another side…even if you can’t understand it.