I recently went to a hospital for a regular appointment at a specialty clinic. As I walked through the foyer of the hospital a young girl handed me a chocolate bar with a note saying, “Get better soon! Have a good day!” It had two hearts and a smiley face colored in. The girl, about five years old, was with her father who had a shopping bag full of the cards and candy. To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t in pain. I was going for an appointment to follow up on a problem. I really didn’t know whether to take the gift or not.
On one hand, I wasn’t sick, so I felt that I didn’t deserve the chocolate. On the other hand, I didn’t want the girl to think that I wasn’t thankful. And the father had picked a location where people come through who are visiting or going for appointments and not for emergencies. And let’s face it, it was a free chocolate. Yet, I had my doubts.
Okay, if you are wondering, I did take the chocolate. However, I also made sure to thank the little girl and give her a big smile. Oh, and I smiled at the father also.
I think that the idea of having the girl make the cards and attach them to a chocolate and give them out in a hospital was a great idea. And the father found a way of doing it without upsetting the girl at all, as people were coming and going from appointments or visiting, but to the young girl, she was doing a mitzvah (a good deed) of caring for the sick.
As I ate my chocolate, after my appointment, I still struggled with if it was right to take the chocolate or not. Sure, I did have something wrong which meant that I had to go to a sub-specialist, but I wasn’t in pain.
But then I thought about it more. Yes, I was in pain. In pain that there have been so many shootings around the world, so much anti-Semitism, so much hatred of people who are different. And while the chocolate may not lessen what is wrong in the world, somehow, the girl giving me the chocolate and the note made the world seem a little better. No, eating chocolate, even eating free chocolate, cannot rectify all that is wrong, but a free chocolate with a note given out by a young girl sure can help you see that there is hope for the future.
Maybe, if each of us extended a goodwill gesture to a stranger or two, we could spread some hope and maybe even change someone’s day from a bad day, or a lonely day, or a day without hope, or a sad day, or a hurting day, to a day where at least for a while that person would feel a bit better.
You may not want to hand out chocolates at a hospital, or even take a child or grandchild to do so, but there are a lot of different things that you could do to produce the same effect. You could help a stranger who needs physical help picking something up, you can let someone go ahead of you in line that is in a hurry, you could smile and say thank-you to your bus driver, or to your child’s teacher. If you still have a postal carrier come to your door, or a delivery person, you can say thank you, smile and offer him or her a glass of water. You can take your child to a food bank to package food or to a soup kitchen to serve food.
But, we don’t just need to bring smiles to strangers. You can start in your own home. Compliment your spouse, parents and children. Smile and talk to your children when you pick them up from school, or they get home. Put away your phone, tablet and computer for a bit and give them some real attention. Sit down for a family dinner. This old time family activity is very important! While it’s great to make a stranger smile, it is imperative to make your own family smile and feel safe, important and special!
If you don’t generally eat together, Shabbat is a great time to start. Make a special meal, sit down together and talk about your week, your dreams, your disappointments and what made you smile. If you already eat together on Shabbat, try adding another night or two during the week when you eat together and discuss your day.
I bet that the more people that you make smile, whether it be your own family, or strangers, the more that you will smile! Whether it’s giving out candy at a hospital, helping a stranger put groceries in his car, giving your seat to someone on the bus, or having a nice dinner together as a family, you can increase the number of smiles in the world.
Marcia Goldlist is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online. She was the author of one of the blog postings selected for the Second Quarter 5779 Jewish Values Online Best Blogs.
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
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