The year was 2001. I was four-and-a-half years old. I was not awake when it happened, and I did not witness my older sister and brother rushed out the door by our father. I did not witness the countless relatives pouring into our house nor did I realize the tragic event that had just changed my life forever. When I woke from my nap and went down to the living room, I saw many tear-stricken faces. My father came over to me and, as calmly as he could, tried to explain the situation. My mother who had been stricken with breast cancer for quite some time had returned her soul to the Creator. I didn't really understand just then, as my brain was still foggy from my nap, but the one thing I did understand was that something had happened to Mommy, and she wasn't there.

Fast forward about four years. I was in third grade and it was Field Day. My good friend and I were playing one of the relays, and we started arguing over the rules of the game. Lots of friends ganged up on my side, and soon, she ran into the school building, crying. I had never meant to hurt her and now I felt like crying myself. I moped around until the next game and soon the incident was pushed to the back of my mind.

Didn't she know that I never see my mother?!At the end of lunch that day, just before afternoon classes were to begin, my teacher called me into the classroom. She sat me down in the dimly lit classroom and started lecturing me. "How could you be so mean to your friend, Tali?" she asked in wonder. "Don't you know her parents are divorced and she barely ever sees her mother?!" Of course I knew this as she (the girl I fought with) was my best friend, but that wasn't what I was thinking just then. I was thinking about how cruel this teacher was being towards me. Didn't she know that I never see my mother?! I nodded my head so the conversation would end right there and angrily walked out of the classroom to get my books for the afternoon.

When I got home from school that day, my father was home to greet me. Noticing my sad face, he bent down to about my height and asked me what the matter was. I explained to him how inconsiderate my teacher had been and burst out in sobs. My father sat me down in a chair, and he sat down in one, too. Then he told me something that has been engraved in my mind ever since.

"When Mommy was sick, her friends would come from all over to do the mitzvah of bikur cholim [visiting the sick]. Many of these friends would sit by her bedside and complain. Complain about work, how mean their bosses were, and other matters of everyday life. It bothered me that they were doing this, so I finally confronted Mommy. She was quiet for a minute and then responded that even though she is sick, her problems aren't all the world's problems, and if people needed a shoulder to cry on, why shouldn't that shoulder be hers? Tali, even though you have troubles, your problems aren't all problems, and you still have to feel for other people in pain."

My father then got up and walked out of the room, leaving me alone as I absorbed what he had just said to me.

Fast forward about another three years to where I am today, sitting and typing this story. This incident has probably been forgotten by my friend, teacher, and father, but it has stayed with me ever since. It taught me a very important lesson: just because you may have problems, you still need to be there for others, you still have to help.

In loving memory of my mother, Devorah Mindel Bat Yosef Nuta.