The Surprise at the Door
I ran to the door and flung it wide open, excited by the prospects of receiving a package. I was sorely disappointed.
The doorbell rang. Then there was a pounding on the door. Even though I was in our upstairs study working, I jumped up and eagerly ran down the stairs. It must be a package, I thought. I didn’t even remember ordering anything, but I was nevertheless delighted by the prospect. It’s almost more fun when you don’t remember; it’s like receiving an unexpected gift.
I moved quickly to the door, afraid they might leave, and flung it wide open. Only to be greeted by a Jew from Israel who was here to collect tzedaka. Yes, I was disappointed. Not just that the anticipated material item (whatever it was!) hadn’t arrived but, I confess, at the sight of the petitioner. I even thought to myself, If only I hadn’t been in such a rush; if only I hadn’t opened the door.
I dutifully made my contribution – politely but with little enthusiasm. The recipient, on the other hand, showered me with blessings. And I felt ashamed.
Why was he, the one in need, able to maintain such a positive outlook? And why was I, the more fortunate one, so gloomy and resentful? It was time for a little perspective and reframing, a little self-talk.
In the first place, I wasn’t even sure that I had ordered anything – that’s on the basic practical level. In the second place, even if I had, did I really think that material item, whatever it might have been, merited the level of excitement I was bringing to it. Even on an admittedly slow day! I knew it was just a thing, something that would eventually be forgotten or given away, that definitely would not give me meaning or blessing or joy or any spiritual gifts.
And in the third place, had I so distanced myself from the needs of others that I was unable to be empathetic to their pain, that I saw them as inconvenient and disruptive rather than as an opportunity to give, to share, to uplift? And in the fourth place, had I so forgotten my purpose in life, my need and desire to emulate the Almighty, whose most basic character trait is kindness? What was I thinking?
We get distracted. We get busy. We get overwhelmed. And we become forgetful. Forgetful of our goals. Forgetful of our humanity. Forgetful of the humanity of others. Forgetful of our purpose. Forgetful of our desire to be like God. And, worst of all, forgetful of our need and pleasure in connecting with the Almighty, in forging a personal relationship with the Creator of the World.
At least I know I erred. At least I can see how off I was. At least I still retain a modicum of self-awareness. And, at least I want to be better. So let the doorbell ring. I’m pasting on a (genuine) smile and I’m greeting all my brothers and sisters with love and generosity. They are the real unexpected gifts. And pleasure of giving to them, the growth and closeness to God gained from giving to them, will last much longer than any unexpected package.
Although I still wouldn’t mind opening my door and finding a small brown box (Jewelry size) …