I think at last, a week later, I’ve caught up on my sleep. Five weeks was a long time to sleep on the floor of my dining room, which also happens to be my kitchen and the central room of our home.

What happened? My 88-year-old father-in-law (may he live long and be well) came to visit us, and my husband and I gave him our room. To have him—a man with poor eyesight, poor hearing, and who doesn’t always walk so well—stay some place on his own was out of the question. It was obvious that he would stay with us. To me and my husband it was also obvious where he would sleep. We have two bedrooms, one for the kids and one for us. Yes, it was obvious to us that he would sleep in our room. What surprised me was that many people I told about this visit didn’t understand why my father in-law couldn’t stay in my kids’ room while they slept on the floor.

It was obvious that he would stay with us

The other day I went with my kids and a close friend of mine and her kids to a community center near our home. Downstairs, there were big trampolines for the kids to jump on, and upstairs is the neighborhood library. I told my daughter, who is about six and a half years old, to take our friend down to the trampolines with all the little kids while I returned books and picked out new ones. After I finished, I went down to the trampolines and walked up to my friend who was sitting nearby. She turned to me and asked, “What’s your secret?”

“What do you mean?”

“You have such considerate kids! As soon as we entered the activities room, Frida Tamar (my daughter) went over and got me a chair to sit on. How do you teach them to do things like that?!!”

To me, the answer was obvious. My daughter got her the chair because there is no doubt that I would have done the same thing. How do I teach them to be considerate? Certainly not by telling them. I teach them consideration by being considerate. I teach them to do acts of chesed (loving kindness) by doing acts of chesed myself.

In the book of Samuel, the prophet relates how David was running away from King Saul, who wanted to kill him. David arrived near the home of a very wealthy man named Nabal, whom David had helped in the past. Nabal was a greedy man who, as the prophet describes him, was “difficult and an evildoer.” David sent his attendants to ask Nabal for food and he refused. When David’s attendants reported Nabal’s refusal to David, David was infuriated and wanted to destroy Nabal for his insolence.

Upon hearing about what happened, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, “hurried and took two hundred breads, two containers of wine, five cooked sheep, five se’ahs (a measurement) of toasted grain, a hundred raisin-clusters, and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and she put them on donkeys.”1 In other words, she took a lot of food, and she took it; she didn’t order anyone else to do it. This wealthy woman who had five personal maidservants and many attendants put the food on the donkeys herself, saddled her donkey and rode to David. “When Abigail saw David she hurried and dismounted from the donkey, and fell on her face before David, and prostrated herself to the ground.”2

You know what happened then? David calmed down. Abigail saved not only her entire household, but she also saved David from becoming too angry. In his words:

Blessed be you, who has restrained me this day from coming to bloodshed and avenging myself by my own hand. Truly as the L‑rd G‑d of Israel lives, Who has prevented me from harming you, hadyou not hurried and come to meet me, by morning’s light there would not have remained to Nabal as much as a dog . . . Go in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your advice, and have shown you grace.3

Ten days later Nabal was struck with an illness and died. When David heard about his death, he sent for Abigail and married her. Abigail thus become one of the queens of Israel and is counted by our Sages as one of the seven prophetesses of Israel.4

What made Abigail a queen? It wasn’t her wealth or beauty (though they were so great that the prophet describes both of them); it was her wisdom and her act of chesed (kindness). It was her act of gathering the food and bringing it to David herself.

Back to my father-in-law and the five weeks of sleeping, or not sleeping, in my living room. It was an honor to host my father-in-law. It was a privilege to have him in our home, and, yes, it was a chesed. However, it wouldn’t have been a chesed to host him at the expense of my kids. When we have guests for Shabbat, I always ask my children before I have the guests sleep in their room. They know that they can say no, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you know what? They always say yes. Why? First, because we make it fun by turning it into a slumber party, but most importantly, because children learn kindness from their environment. By seeing it.

Was it hard, hosting my father-in-law?

So you ask me, was it hard, hosting my father-in-law? Honestly, yes. It was. For many reasons. Being responsible for the physical and emotional needs of another human being is always hard. Having someone stay in your home and take over your space is always hard. But was it worth it? Was it beautiful? Was it an honor and a privilege? Was it a wonderful opportunity to really teach my children the mitzvahs of honoring your parents and doing chesed? YES! Yes, yes and yes. This is the answer to my friend who asks me, “How do you have such considerate kids?”