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Dear Rachel,

Whenever someone is having a crisis, they call me. Whenever someone needs advice, they call me. I feel like I am always on call and available for everyone who is going through a tough time and in need of help. I guess you could say that I handle pressure well and I have always been told that I am a great support and offer insightful and necessary advice. The problem is that I am also quickly forgotten. As soon as the person I am helping gets back on her feet, I seem to no longer exist. It is not that I want flowers or a gift, but I guess just some kind of acknowledgement for what I did to help. I feel guilty wanting the thank-you but I feel that I deserve it! Am I wrong?


Dear Forgotten,

It is hard when we are in a situation to see it for what it is You sound like an incredibly generous person who has offered endless support and encouragement to others throughout the years. Perhaps it is time that you offered the same to yourself! It is hard when we are in a situation to see it for what it is, so turn the tables around. What would you tell someone coming to you for help in this very area?

Chances are that you would remind the person that whether or not she was thanked, what she did was immeasurable and she helped someone in great need. Often, those who are in the most need are not even in a position to recognize that they should be giving thanks. When someone is really overwhelmed with their situation or their lives, they are not emotionally healthy enough to realize that they owe a debt of gratitude for their new found stability to the one that helped them.

You may find that with time that these very same people will come back and offer their thanks. Or they may not. Ever. And that can be a hard pill to swallow. But as you wrote yourself, you didn't offer to help for the thank-you. Of course it is nice to be appreciated, of course it feels great for someone to tell you how wonderful you were, but those are the extras. You helped them because you knew they needed the help. And you did a great thing in offering it to them. Just seeing them in a better place should be your thank you. Take a good look at how they are today and how they were when they came to you, and feel proud that your effort led to a tangible change. It would be so much more depressing if you put in some much effort and nothing changed! If anything, you are very fortunate to be able to see the fruits of your labor.

Maybe they worry that you will still see them for who they were and not who they are Another thing to keep in mind is that often people who are going through a really tough time, and then start to do better, don't necessarily want reminders of the frame of mind they were in when they turned to you. Perhaps, even unconsciously for them, you serve as that reminder. Maybe when they see you or speak to you they worry that you will still see them for who they were and not who they are. And perhaps you do. You know a lot about them and their situation. You may have intimate details and history that they do not want accompanying them into their future.

There is no question that they are grateful for what you have done. If anything, it should go without saying (even though it is a lot nicer when you hear it said.) But the end result is exactly what you had hoped for when you helped them. They are doing better, they are getting on with their lives, and you were a huge part of that process.

Judaism teaches us that the greatest form of charity is to give someone a job. The idea is that more than giving them what they need, give them the ability to earn for themselves what they need. So on the one hand you have done the greatest act of charity possible, and yet, there will be no name plaque or acknowledgement for you, since in the end you never gave the person a dollar! So the greatest act of charity does not actually credit you, the one who gave it!

The next best way to give charity is to do so anonymously. In this situation, even when you do give the money, the other person is not even aware that it came from you. And often you may not even be aware of who the recipient was. So once again, there will be no direct thanks or acknowledgement for your good deed.

That is your thanks—it need not come from them So too you are now that anonymous donor. You might have provided the job in helping someone help themselves. Or you provided direct help which the person who received it may or may not even be aware of. You have done a great deed. It has made a profound change. It is something you should be proud of and grateful that you had the opportunity to help another in such a substantial way. You should feel good about yourself. That is your thanks. It need not come from them. It needs to come from within.

And you should be blessed that in the merit of those you have helped, that if the need ever arises, that others will be there for you the way you have been there for them. I hope you find the inner peace and happiness that you deserve and recognize the great work that you have done, whether or not anyone else thanks you for it!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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valerie akron, oh September 5, 2012

unappreciated, been there, etc. i'm SO HAPPY to have found this subject and SO grateful for the comments. helps a lot, thank you. of course we know it's a gift from G-d to be on the giving end, and to be so grateful for it, and we hope G-d knows and sees how hard we try to do what He would want us to do. my question is why continue putting these ungrateful 'takers' in our lives who need help?!!! and why do we seem to be available for them? we're supposed to learn from these things. and we don't see the big picture. setting limits when there's nastiness or abuse is a definite -- so what can a person do when an old person needs help who doesn't even speak english and is rude on top of it? or a neighbor who is the most self centered person but has so many ailments there's no way i could NOT help out. as one mentioned, i guess it's an anonymous gift any way you look at it!!! thankfully. ah, i feel so much better! happy healthy Rosh Hashana all. Reply

Anonymous alamo, tx August 19, 2011

best friends Even though she might not tell you in person, she appreciates the help and the kindness that only you can offer.....she loves you even though she doesn't deserve a more generous,kind, wonderful, smart, great mother, best friend as thoughtful wd you are. But deep in her heart she only has a space deserving the care that you give. Jennifer Reply

Anonymous Naples, Florida July 28, 2011

unappreciated As per Lisa, setting limits is correct. It's different when there's abuse. Many times I've been disrespected & walked over. When in need, that's when I exist. I'm only human & it hurts deeply especially coming from my own family. & when you aren't there to help cause I have my own issues, they create their little group to humiliate & make it public about those that helped. It's never enough & a competition. They don't take advice only the "do" & talk behind my back about what I have & what they don't have. Jealousy is a bad thing. It's about making the right choices which they don't do. I felt bad & I tried what I could. But sometimes giving too much help, they'll never learn & expect it all the time. I had enough with the abuse. Doesn't mean I will leave them out in the street, but time to step back. I know G-d sees what I've done & what I still do. I know my rewards & the appreciation would be through Him. Now I'll just take the hospitality, charity, etc, where it's greatly needed. Reply

sophie-shira shanghai, china May 12, 2011

totally! i know how you feel! anyway....don't worry! remember hashem will be with you everywhere!:) Reply

Anonymous Overland Park, Ks. February 26, 2011

Back Stabbers,how do you handle them I have been at my job longer than many other employees. I transferred to this area to be closer to my family. But, it still the same company, my problems are jealousy from people that I work with. I make more money than they do. They smile in my face and talk about me behind my back. Anytime they talk to me it is to ask nosy questions they have no business asking. How do I handle this and be polite??? My co-workers try to set me up (ie saying something negative about a boss or co-worker) I just usually say oh really and have no comment.
IOne example is when we got a new boss someone asked me if I liked him, I said I really don't know him long enough to have an opinion one way or the other.. T You get the idea... Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 2, 2011

Unappreciated You're not alone. I've worked at jobs where people made me feel the same way, and my mother was like that, too.

You have to set limits or people won't respect you. They'll take advantage of you, push you around, and walk all over you. Reply

Hadassa Brooklyn, NY/USA October 12, 2010

the greatest act of charity we learn that participating in a Torah-true Jewish funeral/burial is an even greater act of charity becuz we can never be thanked in any way by the person who most benefits from our efforts! do for the good it does you, not just the recipient. Reply

Chaim oakland, ca February 3, 2010

unappreciated I often get the same sort of feeling and sometimes worse (ever had the person you've helped look at you with unmistakable hatred?(not fun) what i try to remember (emphasis on the word "try") is how G-d does so much for us and doesn't always get appreciated either. This may sound somewhat sanctimonius but I've found that it can help Reply

Dee Lee Paris January 27, 2010

I agree with the comments People always ask me for advice, and I need advice myself, of course. Lovingkindness asks for no acknowledgement or reward for helping another. The help you give is reward enough. Shalom. Reply

Susan Fayetteville January 15, 2010

Lovingkindness Isn't what has been described an operative definition of lovingkindness--good deeds done without expectation of a reward? (Other than that which comes from within). Reply

Anonymous Calgary, AB January 11, 2010

been there I too have given and received little acknowledgement from the people for it. That is ok with me. For me, it is a pleasure to do what I think would please the L-rd. Consider how very much the L-rd does, we could hardly compete. Be glad when you are the one who can do the charity instead of the one who must receive the charity. It is a priviledge to be able to give or help. May we never lose it. Reply

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