Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Allowance

Many thanks to all who contributed to our food drive for the Des Plaines Self-help Closet and Pantry. I understand from the volunteers at the Pantry that their cupboards are finally full for the moment but don't let that stop you from making further donations. There's a warehouse space for the overflow!

This experience was fresh in my memory when I picked up Living a Life That Matters. The author Harold Kushner is one of my very favorite inspirational writers. He manages to communicate without preachiness and unlike many others who habitually habitate the best-seller lists, Kushner's words are thought-provoking.

Case in point, Kushner writes that we often have the feeling that we are supporting actors in other people's movies. Like the experience when we visit a dying friend in the hospital, we often aren't in the spotlight, yet we still somehow shape the plot.

Or sometimes we feel that we are playing a minor role because we haven't done something earth-shaking. We're not Bill Gates or Meryl Streep or President of the United States.

Surely, this is how George Bailey feels in It's a Wonderful Life. He tells Clarence, his guardian angel that he is a failure because he didn't do anything "big and important" in his life. Clarence responds that each man's life touches many others, and "... if he's not there, it leaves a hole."

Another Kushner, Lawrence explains the role of helping others in this way: "Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle... (but) you do not have within yourself all the pieces to your puzzle. Everyone carries with them at least one and probably many pieces to someone else's puzzle. Sometimes they know it; sometimes they don't know it. And when you present your piece, with is worthless to you, to another, whether you know it or not, whether they know it or not, you are a messenger from the Most High."

This is certainly a beautiful way of considering acts of kindness, isn't it? Sometimes without even understanding the significance of what we are doing, we can give someone else a piece to their life's puzzle, and they can do the same for us.

I'll tell you why I was ruminating on this particular subject. Earlier this week, I was by the circulation desk when a woman and her young son asked me where the donation area was. They were carrying bags filled with groceries. The woman explained to my that this was her son's donation - he had put aside some allowance money and wanted to buy food for the poor with it. How about that puzzle piece?

And as I long as I've been quoting Rabbi Harold Kushner and Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in this blog, tonight is the first night in the Jewish Festival of Lights. Let me wish everyone a Happy Hannukah.

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