There is a parable of a man in his early 40s who lost the use of his legs. One day, during his stay at a rehab facility, his nurse wheeled him to an outdoor balcony overlooking a park adjacent to the hospital grounds.
She put him next to another wheelchair bound fellow who looked to be his age. He mumbled a quick hello to the other patient, and immediately directed his attention to the park. Suddenly, he pointed agitatedly to a man who was running on a path on the park’s perimeter.
“Look at that,” the man shouted angrily to his companion. “You see that jogger running like the wind? Can’t say for sure, but he must be older than us. I can tell that his hair is gray and his legs look kind of spindly. What do you think?”
When the other patient said nothing, the man continued talking, anger and resentment pouring out of him like sweat. “Hey wake up; I’m talking about the guy running over there, just past the rose bush to our left. The guy in the navy shorts and orange tee shirt with that bird in the middle – I think it’s an eagle emblem. He just rounded the curve and ran past the tall blond lady pushing that double stroller with those babies inside. Probably twins.
“It’s so unfair. We must be at least a decade younger than him and not only can he walk – he can run! Here we are a pair of helpless cripples, stuck in wheelchairs, and he is old! Why us and not him? He must be at least 60! I should have been killed in that accident. My life is over anyhow.”
When his companion offered no comment, the man turned to him in exasperation, and his voice saturated in sarcasm snarled, “What’s the matter with you? Are you deaf?”
The other patient turned his face, eyes hidden under oversized sunglasses, and said in a soft, quiet voice, “No, I’m blind.”
In Pirkei Avot our Sages rhetorically asked, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot” (Avot 4:1). In other words he who has accepted and made peace with what he has. The flip side to this statement arguably would be, “Who is poor? He who is unhappy with his lot. The person who feels cheated, deprived and lacking.
The Talmud likens poor people to the dead. Thus, those who are bitter about their status quo can be considered the same, as they do not enjoy their life.
Misery is the byproduct of a chronic inability to appreciate or recognize that which is good in one’s life. Chronically miserable, critical people are, to their detriment, oblivious to their G-d-given blessings and abilities. They undermine the quality of their lives with their unappreciative, morose attitude.
The handicapped man in the story was bitter about his inability to walk, but oblivious of the gift of his sight, taking it completely for granted.
Those fortunate few who never lost power were still able to get a reality check and appreciate their ability to continue their day-to-day activities because of their peers who were plunged into darkness during the storm.
Likewise, those noble souls who chronically suffer and endure so much, make it possible for the rest of us to tolerate our own burdens by enhancing our hakarat hatov for the positive in our lives.
When they reach 120, the doors of Shamayim will fly open for them.