Compassion

Friday, September 30, 2011

To show you how little I actually know about Judaism, I really thought that on Rosh Hashana the Torah gets scrolled back and we start reading from the beginning.  I figured the portion yesterday would be, "And G-d created light" or something.  Instead, it seems (unless our rabbi had it all wrong) that the portion was the one in which Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son.  Most people know that at the end of that story, G-d shows "compassion" and saves Isaac at the last minute and then Abraham instead sacrifices a ram (if you ask me, the most compassionate move would have been to never ask him to do it in the first place.  What kind of a crazy test is that?)  Anyway, SUPER HEAVY.  It must be nice to be as worthy as Abraham.  Our rabbi gave a lovely sermon about compassion and how important it is for all of us in the new year.  He stressed that we never know what someone else is going through when we encounter them and that we need to show compassion for whatever it is that they might have happening.  He gave an example of the car that is speeding through the streets and cuts you off while driving.  Maybe it is a father who is rushing to get medicine for his sick child.  I was thinking about all of the speeding and rushing and careless driving my whole family was doing on July 19th, trying to get to Maxie at the Emergency Room and then following the ambulance from St. Joseph's in Burbank to Tarzana.  I thought about how much I HATE when people I don't know tell me to smile.  I've been getting that a little more than usual lately.  It is SO irksome.  They think that they are making a connection or maybe even flirting but, frankly, it isn't compassionate.  You don't know what is happening with me!  You don't know why it is nearly impossible for me to smile!  When Ted was in the hospital the week after Max's funeral, his attending doctor seems more consumed with getting me to smile (knowing that I had just lost my child) than in making Ted better.  It was INFURIATING.  Weeks later I told the therapist (the one I am no longer seeing) how much it bothered me and she asked me if I knew whether he (the doctor) had lost a child or a sibling.  In fact, he DID tell me that his brother had died and how sad his mother had been.  The therapist said that he probably spent his whole life after that trying to make his mother smile, to distract her from her pain.  This was a continuation of his life long practice.  It DID make sense.  Maybe I needed to be more compassionate.  It was really too much to expect of me at that time.

There were lots of children in services yesterday.  Right after the Mourners Kaddish, they brought all of the children in from the children's service so that they could hear the shofar being blown.  They came flooding into the chapel, one after the other.  Whenever I see little kids (especially little boys) all I can think is about how Max will never be a child.  I will never take him to see The Lion King, we will never ride on "It's a Small World", I will never see him off to his first day of school, I will never hear his sweet voice saying any words. I want to be more compassionate but I am finding it hard to muster up compassion like I used to (not that anyone would ever had said it was my strongest quality, but certainly I would empathize with your boyfriend troubles, your work troubles, how sad you were after your cat died).  I probably won't show you the compassion now you are longing for when you come to me with things that I once would have agreed were very, very sad.  My idea of what counts as very, very sad has changed in the last few months.  Still, I know it is all relative.  Your child probably didn't die so what you think is really sad might be different than what I think is really sad.  Perhaps knowing what I think is really sad will give you a moment of pause before you tell me about the things in your life that you think are sad.  Maybe you will remember, "Oh ya, my children and family are alive and healthy and well.  I will email Sally instead of Abby to express sorrow about my dead turtle".  I will try and do my part too.  I am not going to let myself off the hook entirely.  I will try to remember that your child didn't die and so you can't possibly know how sad I am and that maybe the saddest thing that ever happened to you was that your pet turtle died.  I will try not to envy you about that either. At some level, I recognize that we are not in a tragedy contest.  I will remember that we are all just human beings, doing our best and that there are lots of struggles that we will all encounter, big and small, and that showing compassion is better than getting frustrated.  Rabbi Marx stressed that the world would be a better place if we all showed a little more compassion.  I have a whole year to work on this.  Or maybe even a whole lifetime - how ever long that may last.  Be compassionate with me and I will do my best to be compassionate with you.

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