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!