The plague of not responding to invitations. It’s more serious than you think.
“Please. Pretty Please. R.S.V.P.” Are some of you squirming as you think about the pile of invitations in your junk pile/drawer? Has it been so long that some of the dates have passed and now you owe some big apologies? And I haven’t even mentioned all those evites…
I actually wasn’t pointing a finger at anyone, just quoting the title of a recent Wall Street Journal piece (12/18/14) but as we like to say in my house during our family meetings (!), “If the shoe fits…” It seems that not responding to invitations is a big problem in the world – and getting worse.
The situations discussed in the article were actually not family simchas but rather more business-oriented (client holiday parties for example) and the most common problem seemed to be that many (yes sometimes more than 50) people would neglect to RVSP but would nevertheless show up at the event. This would then require a lot of skillful maneuvering on the part of the event planner and caterer to divide up the food and rearrange the settings.
But it happens all the time – on all occasions. Just this morning, two separate friends shared with me their frustrations. One was busy baking for a open house she was planning, filling her freezer with goodies, but yet very few of her friends had responded to her invitation and she had absolutely no idea how many to prepare for. Another was teaching a cooking class and had the same issue described in the WSJ. At the last minute, many more attendees would register and she would have to scramble to purchase and prepare more food.
Some of my friends and I have had slightly different experiences. The lack of RSVP-ing (is that a word?) is still the same, necessitating personal phone calls (from kind and helpful friends) a week and a half before the celebration. In addition, there seems to be a common phenomenon of people who actually do RSVP (greatly appreciated), are then carefully seated at “just the right” table and then don’t show up (less appreciated).
I’ve had the mother of the bride or mother of the bar mitzvah boy come to me in tears at the waste of money and lack of consideration as they scan the room and see one table crowded with 12 and another empty with four (Okay, perhaps their focus is off but that’s a separate issue!).
I try to think of comforting words and to judge the “no-shows” favorably. “I’m sure something came up that they had to deal with immediately.” “I know they’d be here if they could” and so on. But it’s cold comfort. And it doesn’t replenish the bank account or increase the joy.
And it seems to happen too frequently for these excuses to always ring true.
The Torah teaches us that the Jewish people are a nation of givers. We love to engage in acts of loving kindness. It is one of our hallmarks. We cook meals and comfort mourners and visit the sick. It is impressive and admirable, warming and nourishing.
But consideration and keeping our word are also acts of kindness. Yes, sometimes the babysitter cancels (but at least try to get one!). Yes, sometimes a child isn’t feeling well (are you sending same child to school the next day?). Yes, sometime we’re just on beyond exhausted (wait, that’s all the time!) but we really need to put ourselves in the host’s shoes and follow Hillel’s famous dictum: That which is hateful to you, do not do to others. None of us like to be on the receiving end of these thoughtless behaviors. A nation of givers is a nation who responds in a timely fashion and participates when they promise to. We need to live up to our reputation and our potential. Someone thought to invite us, someone wanted us to share their joy or enthusiasm. They thought of us; let’s give them the same consideration.