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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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My Packrat Friend


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As I walked home I thought about Pam and her house. She has a million friends (she’s told me about her social activities), a beautiful house and one of the loveliest gardens I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t seem to bother her that her house is a mess. Me? I’d be ashamed to let anyone inside to see that kind of disorder. But she doesn’t care. She accepts her strengths and weaknesses, and gets on with her very active life. She doesn’t mind if people see her shortcomings; she knows that they also see her strengths. Since that day we’ve become real friends, and I’m very grateful that God gave me an apartment in her neighborhood.

But the most important thing that happened that day was that I recognized at last that I would also have friends if I let go of my insecurities and let people in. I’ve certainly got my strengths; not everyone would uproot herself or himself and move 1,000 miles away to observe the commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” – especially for difficult parents. And after my husband died suddenly, I managed my grief, took some classes, and, at age 57, got my first-ever full-time job.

I had been praying for friends and also praying for nachas ruach (serenity of the spirit), as though they were two very different requests. But instead, they came in the same package. Even though I know that from time to time I’ll forget to have self-confidence and will return to judging myself by my weaknesses, I feel that God has given me a big gift: a friend with a very visible flaw. This reminds me that good, admirable people are, as the saying goes, “only human.” My parents want me to be an angel, but God created me a human with lots of room for growth. That’s my overriding task in this world, and Pam has helped me take a big step toward fulfilling it.

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My friend Mrs. Rosen (not her real name) asked me to share her story. A widow for several years, she recently moved back to the community where she grew up so that she could help her elderly parents.

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