Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
When a person goes through hard times words of encouragement can be a big lift. However, these well-intended words can backfire if they are seen as too unrealistic by the recipient and do not connect to what the person is going through.
Often it’s the context of what’s being said. If a boy grows up having difficulty walking and needs a wheelchair to go more than 50 feet, it may not make him feel so good to hear that he’s going to make the little league baseball team in a month. It’s unrealistic, and it will only unnecessarily remind him of what he can’t do.
However, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming of a brighter future, especially if you’re starting to make progress with some challenge you have. I was very moved when I was at the Baseball Hall of Fame to read a letter written by Babe Ruth to a young boy. By the context of the letter it was clear that the boy had great difficulty walking when he was growing up. But it was also clear that he was making steady progress as the Babe expressed great happiness at the picture the boy sent of him riding a horse.
The Babe concluded the letter by saying that he hoped that one day the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium would say, “Now replacing Babe Ruth in right field…” and then he wrote in the boy’s name. I would think the boy was thrilled to receive that letter of hope.
In general it can be very positive to have someone think brightly of your future. It can give a different perspective to someone who’s going through a cycle of despair. After all, the giver of these positive words knows it is what he is thinking about the person in need. In general, it is less helpful when a person purports that he or she knows what the other person is thinking, feeling or going through.
To be sure, it can be helpful if someone has a broken leg to tell what it was like when you had a broken leg. But a line is crossed when you say to that person, “I know exactly what you’re going through. I had the same thing.” No two people have the same exact injury and no two people relate to it the same way.
I know of a man who was grief-stricken when his father was killed in an automobile accident. On the day he went back to work after shivah he felt numb and was just going through the motions. What he needed was a friend to draw him out and get him to relate what was going on. A well-meaning person walked up to him soon after he walked into the office and explained that she, too, had lost her father under tragic circumstances, and she knew exactly what he was going through. Then she walked away. Rather than feeling comforted, the man felt that the woman hadn’t connected one iota to what he was going through.
“I’m sorry with what you’re going through” gives a person an opening to express what’s on his or her mind. Sometimes it’s not so important what you tell persons in need, but rather, it’s what they tell you that can be so beneficial to them.
There is a man who has great difficulty speaking. I’ll call him Reuven. He lies in bed all day and all night. To his credit, he is able to do a lot of religious learning by memory and that gives him something stimulating and meaningful to occupy significant stretches of time. It’s wonderful when people compliment him for the great learning he does. Positive reinforcement is very important.
However, there is one man who I think went too far in his compliments. He would say, “Reuven, you’re luckier than the rest of us. We have our bodies that get in the way of our spiritual needs. But you, you can focus day and night on the spiritual. You’re at a much better place than the rest of us.”
And while I’m hearing this I’m thinking that maybe Reuven would love to have better use of his body, would love to have better use of his arms where he could hold his grandchildren. Better use of his legs, where he could go on outings with his family and walk to shul. If Reuven wants to think he’s in a good place, that’s great. But is it really helpful to tell an ill person, in effect, that they’re better off having an infirmity? I think not.
When going to see a person in great need, it can be very challenging to know what to say. This probably keeps a number of people from visiting in the first place. But if you go and it’s a big mitzvah to do so, especially if it’s very difficult, you can just keep things nice and simple.
“How are you?” could lead to a conversation that will take on it’s own natural flow. And if you know there’s something he is trying to accomplish, you can let him know you’re rooting for him and that you think he will succeed.
Realistic hope, given in a caring tone of voice, with body language that says, “I’m there for you,” can go a long way.
Bikur Cholim of Boro Park has organized a program that deals with the specific needs of men who are Holocaust survivors. “The Afternoon Chevra” is for retired men and meets on Monday afternoons at 1:30 p.m. at Sarah Schenirer Hall, 4622 14th Avenue. For more information contact Rabbi Baruch Krupnik at 718/249-3515.
A Daf Yomi shiur open to the community is given by Rabbi Chaskel Scharf at Scharf’s Ateret Avot Senior Residence, 1410 E. 10th Street, Midwood, Brooklyn. It meets at 2:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 11:15 a.m. on Friday. Call 718/998-5400 for more information.
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This past summer was a powerful one for the Jewish people. I will always remember where I was on June 12th when I found out that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were kidnapped. I will always remember the look on my sister’s face on June 30th when she told me that they were found. I will […]
Avromi often put other people’s interests before his own: he would not defend people whom he believed were guilty (even if they were willing to pay him a lot of money).
How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?
My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.
Students in early childhood, elementary, and middle school were treated to an array of hands-on projects to create sukkah decorations such as wind chimes, velvet posters, sand art, paper chains, and more.
Each student received a brachah and a handshake.
It is important for a therapist to focus on a person’s strengths as a way of overcoming his or her difficulties.
Sadly, there are mothers who, due to severe depression are unable or unwilling to prepare nourishing food for their children.
Michal had never been away from home. And now, she was going so far away, for so long – an entire year!
The simple act of kindness should be the reward itself. Anything more in the form of a reward is gravy.
Patience seems to be in such short supply these days, yet it can make a world of difference. This is particularly so in certain kinds of stressful situations whereby we think we only have time to act in a knee-jerk way instead of acting thoughtfully.
I recently heard a Pirkei Avos shiur in which the speaker said that our spiritual DNA derives from our patriarchs and matriarchs. The great tests they withstood and for which they gained ever greater prominence was witnessed by the Jews who followed them, many of whom succeeded in overcoming great challenges as well. It seems that an individual’s great effort helps the spiritual strength kick in.
The first and only time I said I was a rabbi was also the first and only time I had a gun pointed at me. What led me to that moment was my need to stay on the Upper West Side for a Shabbos and a hospitality committee that arranged for me to stay with a man who lived in the former janitor’s apartment on the fifth floor of a synagogue.
It is very important for Jews to first help family, then other Jews close to us, then Jews not as close. Next, if possible and appropriate, Jews should help those of any race or creed.
The five-year-old boy was in a church in Puerto Rico with his parents. As they and his grandparents were Catholics, that made him Catholic – as far as his young mind could figure.
I was preparing a shiur to honor the memory of my father, Paul Magill, a”h, on the 20th anniversary of his passing, and I was looking at that week’s sedrah, Parshas Re’eh. I was struck by the words, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing: that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you today. And the curse: if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did not know.”
Feeling more alone than at any time since arriving in New York, I looked inside myself for anything that could anchor me to bring me back to who I was, to move away from illusions of romance to my central sticking point. Suddenly and unexpectedly, being a Jew meant more to me than anything else in the world.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/connecting-to-the-person-in-need/2009/02/25/
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