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Watch Out: Kindness Is Contagious!

October 22, 2018 5:12 PM

Dear Readers,

As the editor of theJewishwoman.org, I appreciate the far reach and power that the Internet has in creating and spreading positive learning experiences. I regularly receive communication from readers in remote places who are so appreciative of being part of our virtual community. And I cherish every single one of these letters.

But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered how technology can actually transform a neighborhood into a community—connecting strangers and making them into one big family, while providing daily practical help.

When we moved to Pomona in Upstate New York, I was asked by different neighbors if I wanted to be put on various WhatsApp groups. Before long, I was on a block chat, several neighborhood groups, a school-bus group, a shul group and more!

Daily, I get updates about where the school bus is on its long winding route, which helps us know how much time until the bus will be at our corner. Weekly, I hear about learning opportunities, shul times and other interesting community activities or programs. I also learn about clothes, toys or furniture that is no longer needed and can be picked up to be used by others, recommendations for doctors, cleaning help or information about fixing things around the house.

But as I read the chats, I notice something even more amazing.

“Anyone have a bottle of milk that they can spare till next week, so I don’t have to run to the store right now?”

“Anyone driving to ... (nearby town) who can pick up a package for me?”

“Anyone happen to be in the kosher supermarket now that can pick me up something that’s waiting and paid for at the customer-service counter?”

And surprisingly, within seconds, the positive responses come in, offering lifts to locations, packages dropped off, extra groceries purchased and so much more.

Even more amazingly, I am noticing that the good will just keeps on spreading as more and more people offer their time or resources to help others.

A new friend who recently moved to the area told me in synagogue this past Shabbat, “I couldn’t believe how many people were offering to inconvenience themselves in order to help out others that they don’t even know in our community. When I saw that, I, too, felt that I wanted to do whatever I can to help. Instead of ignoring a request or thinking let someone else volunteer, I just want to jump in and be the one to respond!”

Goodness is so contagious! One small act to help another quickly multiplies into am entire neighborhood of people eager to help one another.

When seeing a community so organized and connected—and so willing to help—it makes me wonder how wonderful it would be to have this in every neighborhood!

Can you share ways, small or big, in which we can make our communities or neighborhoods better?

(And yes, I do have an unopened bottle of milk to spare. With pleasure!)

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

Rerouting Our Spiritual Path

October 15, 2018 5:11 PM

Dear Readers,

The minute after I pressed “confirm order,” I regretted it.

I checked my email for the confirmation, and sure enough, there was my glaring mistake. After our recent move, I had updated my online shopping accounts to reflect our new address, but somehow this order had reverted back to our old address.

This was going to be a problem. When we moved out of our home, construction was being done by the new owner. A package to our old address, in all likelihood, would simply get lost.

And so began my ordeal of working with customer service. As soon as office hours opened the next morning, I called the company to ask them to either cancel my order or redirect it. “I do apologize, Ma’am, but once the order has been made, it is sent to our warehouse and there is nothing we can do to change the delivery. Please call the shipper, though, who will be able to redirect the package.”

After two calls to UPS, and more than two hours on the phone with customer service and technical support, I had achieved nothing (aside from acquiring a huge headache). The bottom line was that I could not unpress the “confirm order.” What had taken me a minute to do was costing me hours of time and money, and even the geeks and computer techies couldn’t undo it.

Fortunately, this was just a matter of wasted time and money. But in life, we also sometimes cause actions that we regret, creating a huge distance between where we want to be and where we truly are. We wish there was a way to reroute or cancel our decision. Is there?

When G‑d created this world, He knew He was creating imperfect beings who would mess up. And so, He created a concept, a gift, called teshuvah, the ability to erase past mistakes. Logically, it really doesn’t make any sense. It’s impossible to go back in time and undo something that you yourself did. Unless, of course, we realize that time, too, is a creation, and G‑d has abilities that are far beyond logic.

Although we think about teshuvah during the High Holiday season, it’s something that applies year-round. When it comes to our spiritual growth, we can undo our mistakes with the important caveat that we learn and grow from them.

This week, we read about the life of Sarah—all “100 and 20 and seven years.” The interesting phrase teaches us that at every stage, she lived a life of consistent perfection. That doesn’t mean that she knew at age 7 what she learned at 100; rather, she used every stage and every opportunity as a learning and growth experience.

As human beings, we will unfortunately make mistakes and do things we regret. We need to correct whatever we can, and learn and grow from whatever we cannot.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S. It seems that with enough effort (and help from geeks), even packages can be redirected. Several days later, my package arrived at … my new address!

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

I Misjudged

October 15, 2018 5:07 PM

Dear Readers,

I met a woman the other day. In addition to being the mother of several children, she had a very successful career. She had worked her way up the rungs of her profession and was now considered one of the top members in this challenging field. She had a no-nonsense look about her, and she appeared smug, almost arrogant.

I met her soon after I had heard gossip about her. A friend had consulted her to help with a situation, and she wasn’t forthcoming with any assistance. My impression of this woman was cemented. In my mind, she was cold and arrogant—not someone I would likely want to become too close with.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly we form impressions of people? How quick we are to judge them, based on superficial cues?

In the days that followed, I met this woman again, and she started up a conversation. As her daughter climbed onto her lap, she told me that unlike her own children, she didn’t have much of a childhood. Her mother had passed away when she was a pre-teen and left behind several children; she was the oldest. The responsibility of caring for her young siblings fell on her shoulders. She quickly learned how to cook, how to buy clothes and how to take care of their needs. While her classmates were busy studying for tests or going on outings, she had responsibilities. Until today, she was close to her siblings; they often leaned on her for advice or support. She gave me an example of one in a dire situation, and she was taking on the challenge.

She said this all very matter of factly, without bitterness or sadness about her past, and without pride or conceit. She was not trying to elicit my sympathy nor show me how much kindness she did. She spoke simply without emotion, as if she was sharing a memory from her distant past or an encounter that she had yesterday at work.

I went home after that short meeting with a completely different impression of this woman. Her hard work had paid off, and she now enjoyed a more affluent, happy life. But what I had judged as gruffness or smugness were merely necessary tools she used in coping with the challenges she had been given early on in life. Beneath her outward hardness or emotionlessness was a soft and giving heart.

Over the next few weeks, our paths crossed once again, and I noticed several other small and big acts of kindness that this woman was involved in.

I learned an important lesson about judging people. We all are so much more than we appear to be. We all have a past and a present; we all have challenges that we’re dealing with that others are completely unaware of. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and judge less, and when we do, favorably.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
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