Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reflections and Messengers

I wanted to share a story of reflection and a story of a messenger. Well actually two messengers.

The first story is about forgiveness and how liberating it is to forgive and also to be forgiven.

The details of the event are not particularly important, but I will share that when I was in grade school, I did not invite a particular classmate to an event. I didn't have any particular reason to exclude her, and though it is not an excuse, I do specifically remember being egged on by the much more beautiful and much more popular girls not to invite her. How I wanted to be pretty and popular! They were so beautiful, they all had boyfriends, they all got into he coveted, extracurricular "advanced jazz" club, and I was woefully uncoordinated. Though I could always make people laugh, and was dubbed by some of my friends parents as being the 'little philosopher' what I really wanted was to be pretty, to be one of the dancers. That's what looked good to me. I wanted that.

My classmate got word of my not inviting her and she actually confronted me about it. I can't remember if it was before or after, but I do remember having a conversation with her in the girls' washroom. I remember even then being impressed that she had the guts to speak directly to me about it. I was terrifically uncomfortable-rightly so. She was right, and I was wrong. She was right to come right to the source and I deserved the uncomfortable chat.

Anyway, it has been bothering me for decades. As it happens, we are Facebook friends-a number of former grade school and high school classmates have looked me up and we have re-connected. I get a real kick out of it.

I finally summoned the courage to ask for her forgiveness for this particular mean act. It was certainly one of the meanest things I ever did as a child and as I say, I never thought of myself as a mean girl.

She was so gracious and forgave me completely, even going as far as to reassure me that she had most certainly not been thinking about it for decades as I had, and that I had always been extremely nice to her, never a mean girl and that in fact, it was her "popular" and pretty "friends" who had been much more disappointing to her over the years. She said she had also been in my position before, asking for forgiveness and her experience was also that she was much more troubled throughout the years than the person she had allegedly wronged.

I'm so relieved. A real weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Perhaps for some, this act would seem inconsequential, but it has bothered me, as I say, since grade six. It's a pity I waited so long to summon the courage to ask but I'm so glad I finally did it.


There is a concept in Judaism called "Hashgacha Pratit".

It literally means 'personal [divine] supervision-or providence in English. But the concept basically describes what one might call a personal interaction, or personal experience with the divine, with G-d. 

These experiences do not have to be major events. They can be very simple ones. They can be those strange "coincidences" that have absolutely no explanation. The moments where you experience something, or you interact with someone and that chances of that interaction happening are so incredible that it can only be explained by looking upward.

It's running into someone you know in a foreign country thousands of miles from home. It's meeting someone who wasn't supposed to be there at that time, and they change the course of your life. It's reading a phrase that makes you the person you are. Or hearing a chance piece of music that makes you weep-but only you.

There are messages everywhere and messengers everywhere, we just have to be open to them. Here is one such story.

I had walked my husband to synagogue one Sabbath before evening prayers, pushing my disabled son along in his manual wheelchair. Technically it's a "push chair", or that's what I call it to make myself feel less sad about it, but bottom line is: it's a wheelchair.

The Sabbath is a very quiet day for him, with no iPad and no other electronic distractions. Our main activity is our big, long walks. I knew that he would want to do our long route after "dropping off" my husband. Though in a big city, with lots of traffic going by, and though I was with my son, I told my husband that I felt acutely and completely lonely. The other children were at camp or with friends on a lake, and even though I was so happy that they were happy, the glimpse of my future-solitarily pushing my son in a wheelchair along as the sun set, did unsettle me somewhat.

As we got almost halfway through our route, I told my son that my legs were killing me and that I needed to sit down. He was not happy. He likes to move-not be stagnant. But I had done the "big walk" four times already that day, and I needed a few minutes to sit. I sat on the bench and he immediately popped out of the chair, and started to drag it i.e MOVE LADY, MOVE IT. I said, sorry I can't. I think he realized I meant business and so in lieu of getting me to move, he grabbed my face in his inimitable way and started hugging and kissing me.

From a distance, and in the thickest Scottish accent I have ever heard, came the most unusual sounds.

"Oh I'm so jealous! I'm so jealous! Look at that, I'm so jealous."

Because he had my head in a vice-like grip, I couldn't see where the voices were coming from, and assumed that I was going insane.

And then again-this time two separate Scottish, female voices:

"Ohh, wouldya look at that. I'm just so jealous! Oh me, too."

Then, out of nowhere on the path, appeared two (modern) Scottish grannies.

Composing myself, and after gratefully realizing that I was not (technically) insane, I said "oh yes, he's certainly my best friend".

And they said "oh, and what a best boyfriend he is".

We walked together for a few more moments, chatting about this and that, the weather and my son's pretty cool looking chair, and then I said that it was lovely talking to them and I was going to head home.

I realized in those few moments after that I wasn't lonely any more. That was just the right amount of company to make me feel not alone anymore. My pity party had dissipated as quickly as it had begun. I only wish I had told them how meaningful their kind comments were, and how they had actually quite literally saved me from having a good little cry on the park bench.

Messengers are all around us.

If you simply look around, keep your eyes and heart open and are actually really and truly open to their presence, you will always hear a message.