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Last week Gavin and I met friends for a light dinner at a popular Israeli café chain. Gavin was thoroughly enjoying his salad and commenting on how delicious it was when he suddenly went very pale, very quiet and looked like he was about to choke. As he was about to take another mouthful of salad, a rather scary looking dead roach was on his fork. Ugghh!!! The manager noticing the commotion at the table came up and cheerfully asked "ha-kol beseder" ("is everything okay?) to which Gavin answered "mamash lo!" ("actually no!"). The manager was clearly mortified and removed the plate immediately without a word. He came back a few minutes later, profoundly apologetic and offered Gavin a complimentary replacement meal. By then we had all lost our appetites.
Gavin was very nice to the manager, telling him not to worry about it – it can happen anyway and was not a reflection of the hygiene of the restaurant. The manager in turn was also very nice – he brought us a complimentary tray of yummy desserts and took 25% of everyone’s check. Quite a pleasant change from the screaming, shouting, and threats of lawsuits that usually would accompany such an event.
For two days I inspected everything I ate, was somewhat squeamish, and then I guess moved on with my usual routine including enjoying Israel's foods. (Follow my meals at my weight loss challenge Facebook page.) A roach in my salad and all the emotions it provokes is simply a metaphor for life. We often hear stories and experience things that upset and disturb us. We ponder for a while and then we move on! G-d gave us this coping mechanism or we would be too burdened with life, problems, tragedies, etc. Yet I think in our fast paced worlds with so much information overload and so many stresses, in an effort to cope with our busy lives, we move on too fast and never take stock, appreciate and say thanks for the many wonderful things that fill our lives.
Twenty years ago when I was starting my religious journey I studied at a seminary. One of the first classes was on prayer we were taught that prayer should have 3 elements PLEASE, THANKS and WOW. When I have a quite moment I often realize how much of my prayer is PLEASE only….
I had a moment like this just two weeks ago. Good friends came to stay at us from Toronto and we had a wonderful few days together. On the Shabbat morning, we went to shul and my friend’s husband was not looking very well. Suddenly he collapsed and then had a series of seizures. It was so scary, their kids were hysterical and I could see in Gavin’s usually calm face that even he was very worried as he tended to our friend.
The ambulance came and whisked him off to the hospital. It was a very long Shabbat afternoon waiting for news while trying to keep their three children calm and distracted. Thank G-d, he was fine in the end. He had a severe (anaphylactic) allergic reaction to something and responded immediately to treatment at the hospital and was discharged with words of caution and a big EpiPen.
There were many times during that long difficult day that I prayed to Hashem for help and mercy on our friends and their three young children. But when we heard the good news, I must admit that my prayer of thanks did not reach anywhere near the same level of intensity as the prayers for help. I guess to some extent it is human nature, but I feel that we should work harder on developing our sense of ha-karat ha-tov (gratitude/appreciation) for everything that we have. To do this, I am going to try focus on that which I have to be grateful for every regular day, and not wait for the drama of a medical emergency, or a roach in a salad.