Like many others out there, I like to perpetuate the illusion that I am somehow in charge. Certainly not of anything of far-reaching international importance, like world peace or nuclear proliferation. No, my aspirations of “being in charge” are of a vastly more limited and unglamorous ilk: Perhaps being in control of something in my own purview, within my daled amos – in my own home and community.
Alas, even that seems beyond my measly reach and capabilities. For better or worse, this past week, full as it was with ups and downs on a global and personal level, was proof positive of that incontrovertible fact.
I won’t even mention the national tragedy that shook up the entire Jewish world and started our week on a decidedly sour note. Most of us have seen ample evidence over the past months and years to acknowledge that Hashem surely controls the big things. We cannot claim to comprehend His Divine Plan, but we are well aware that it indeed exists.
Instead, I want to focus on two relatively minor occurrences that left me perplexed and at the same time marveling at how little I actually know, humbled by how minuscule a player I am on this huge stage called Life.
First came the wallet incident. Well, technically it began seven or eight months ago. My teenage daughter and her close friend had decided to go on a shopping expedition together using public transportation, and at some juncture my daughter discovered to her dismay that her wallet had gone missing. The two girls retraced their steps in our neighborhood, returning to the bus stop and asking passersby – but to no avail. In the end she wrote it off as a kapparah, purchased a new wallet, and moved on.
Then, one morning last week, came a phone call from out of the blue. “Mrs. Klein?” I answered in the affirmative. Then, “Is your first name Naama?” Again yes. It was the secretary at the elementary school that my daughter had attended beginning in fifth grade, when we made aliyah, until her graduation several years ago.
“We found a wallet here with a couple of your expired credit cards, bus receipts, etc.”
After a moment’s hesitation, I explained that the wallet most likely belonged to my daughter, a former student in the school. I had given her some old cards to play pretend grown-up with a number of years prior, and those were ostensibly what the secretary now held in her hand. I proceeded to describe the missing wallet; she confirmed my “simanim” and filled in some additional details, including the 130 shekels still nestled inside.
I thanked her profusely, and she arranged to send it to our neighborhood with a current student who resides nearby. She later called again to provide contact information for that family. That evening my now 17-year-old went to retrieve her long-lost wallet, both genuinely happy and shocked to unexpectedly see it again.
Then there was the greeting card fiasco. That too had begun somewhat earlier, several weeks before. Unfortunately, the postal system in our area is far from the most efficient, and even under ideal conditions, it routinely takes a few weeks to send a letter from Israel to the U.S. So it is extremely commonplace to affix U.S. postage instead of Israeli airmail stamps and try to find a courier who is flying to the States and willing to mail the envelopes there.
Consequently, there are often postings on our community online group in search of a messenger to mail invitations or other envelopes in the U.S. and, more rarely, from a volunteer who is traveling to the alter heim and is offering to take some mail along. I have personally been on both ends of this shidduch over the years, alternately offering to post mail and asking others to do so for me. Baruch Hashem, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement that generally expedites the process significantly. Or not.
Our most recent attempt at sending two greeting cards to our children in the USA proved to be a comedy of errors if ever there was one. My first posting on the local group yielded two responses from two potential couriers, neither of whom lived in proximity to my home. As it happened, my husband (along with our only car) was out of the house from early in the morning until quite late at night every day that week. After a number of email exchanges with the woman, she kindly agreed that my husband could deposit the two envelopes in her mailbox when it was convenient for him, with the sole stipulation being that I remind her to retrieve the cards before her flight on Wednesday.
My wonderful (but admittedly procrastination-prone) better half was too exhausted to trek up the hill on Tuesday night, so instead he delivered the envelopes to her mailbox when he left for work on Wednesday morning at around 6:30 a.m. After my repeated reminder phone calls and email messages went unanswered, however, we determined that the woman had left to the airport at 5:30 a.m. So instead of being en route to their destination, our anniversary and birthday cards ultimately had to be extracted from her mailbox. Then I had to begin the entire process again from square one.
A few postings later, I again received two responses, likewise from volunteers who did not reside on my side of town. But one of them shared that she was planning to shop in my neighborhood the following day. So we coordinated a time and meeting place, and this time I walked over and hand-delivered the now-belated cards. Mission accomplished. Or so I thought….
Fast-forward a couple of weeks. It suddenly dawned on me that I had not heard from either my daughter or daughter-in-law regarding receipt of their cards and gifts. So I decided to ask them point blank whether they had ever gotten them. To my dismay and embarrassment, neither of them had.
Next I dredged up the deleted correspondence with my courier’s daughter, sent her an email her that evening and followed up by calling her the next day. She was very apologetic over the phone, and explained that her mother had taken another flight soon after she arrived back in the U.S, and in the tumult had neglected to mail the envelopes until her daughter had mentioned it the previous day after my call.
So that mystery at least has been solved. And hopefully my kids will get their now much-delayed cards in the coming days!
The wallet mystery, however, continues to confound us. We admittedly have no idea how the purse ended up being found in my daughter’s long-ago school many months after it had been seemingly lost without a trace. However, we are extremely grateful for the beautiful mitzvah of hashavas aveida, and the shlichim who spared no effort in fulfilling it. And we are likewise sincerely appreciative that the entire sequence of events was so ably orchestrated from On High, with no input from us whatsoever.
Because if this past week has taught me anything, it is the very humbling lesson that, despite the elaborate charades that delude me into thinking otherwise, I actually control virtually nothing. Except, of course, my own behavior and attitude – arguably the most difficult job of all.