At a recent wedding, I met up with an old friend. As we were catching up on the last couple of decades, her daughter passed by, and she introduced her to me.
A few years earlier this daughter had suffered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a treatable cancer of the immune system. She described the terrible anxiety, the indecision and the fears.
Her daughter had suffered through surgery and chemotherapy treatments, and had recovered, thank G‑d. In her early twenties, she was now a survivor for four years and her prognosis was excellent. Despite being worried about the unknown, G‑d had been kind to them, my friend said, and her daughter had in the interim married and given birth to two beautiful children.
“G‑d alone runs the world,” she said, “and He decides if and when we marry and if and when we have children—even after undergoing a battery of chemo treatments.”
My friend’s faith was inspiring. She also shared a story that truly touched me.
As her daughter was suffering through the chemo treatments, her hair fell out and she wore a wig, like so many cancer patients.
One day, her daughter met an acquaintance who had no idea what she was going through. Though my friend’s daughter was quite young at the time, the acquaintance assumed that, like other Orthodox women, she was wearing a wig because she was married.
“I didn’t know that you had married,” the woman enthused while eyeing her wig.
“I’m not married,” my friend’s daughter responded simply.
She related the event later to her mother, who asked her if she had been very uncomfortable by the exchange.
“Well, yes,” her daughter replied. “I wasn’t embarrassed for myself; I just kept thinking how mortified that woman must have been after she realized. I felt so bad for her, and I was so sorry that I had inadvertently caused her such embarrassment.”
Not only was my friend’s daughter not personally offended or slighted by a thoughtless (though innocent) remark, but she had apparently so honed her sensitivity towards the plight of others that she was only concerned for this woman’s feelings.
We all go through challenges in our lives. We cannot control what suffering we will have to endure. But our perspective on how we choose to emerge from our situations is our own choice.
What a lesson as we embark on a new year.
In just a few days, on Rosh Hashanah, we will stand united before our Maker, awaiting judgment for the coming year. We pray, “Borcheinu avinu kulanu ke’echad,” “Bless us, our Father, all of us as one united whole.” Let us resolve to forgive those who may have wronged us, innocently or purposely, just as we beseech our Maker to forgive us for our own shortcomings.
Wishing each and every one of you a year full of blessing and goodness, health, happiness and prosperity.