There is a weariness in the air. We thought we had moved on but here we go again. Back to the masks, school closings and being locked out of Eretz Yisroel. It is easy to fall into emotional fatigue.
But haven’t we all been through situations where we needed to plug into our inner strength and use our spiritual muscles to get through the moment? For each person, their challenge is what counts. Telling someone that you have it worse or harder, or “at least you don’t…” does not alleviate the person’s pain. What can we do to help ourselves get through these emotionally draining times?
When I was newly married, I moved with my husband to his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was just twenty years old and sorely missed home. The culture was foreign. The language seemed strange. Everything was unfamiliar. Though everyone tried hard to make me feel at home (especially my husband), I was a happily married bride living miserably in Brazil. I longed for familiar company. There was only one person who agreed to cross the continent and join me. My grandmother, my Mama.
Mama was a fiery woman who loved life and never allowed herself to get down. As a young mother she lived through the tragedy of churban, survived Bergen Belsen, and lost many of those she loved. Arriving to this country meant starting all over again. With her broken English and not a penny in her pocket, somehow Mama together with my Zayda, built a yeshiva and shul in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The message was clear. When you go through darkness you have a choice. Either surrender to the choshech or kindle a light.
And now, it was Mama who agreed to visit with me in a foreign country. Mama had just recovered from a broken hip, had never traveled anywhere alone, but she courageously chose to fly solo so that she could spend time with me across the world.
I counted the days till Mama’s arrival. I could not wait for Mama’s sympathy. “Poor shefalah,” I imagined her saying, seeing my distress.
Finally the day arrived. After many excited hugs and kisses we entered the waiting car.
“Ah,” I thought to myself. ‘Here’s my big moment!”
Mama was looking out the window as we drove.
“Nay!” Mama said. ‘Nay’ was Mama’s Hungarian word for ‘Wow!’
“Nay, look at the trees! I’ve never seen such trees in my whole life!”
The streets were lined with huge lush green palm trees.
“The trees, Mama?” I asked, unbelievingly.
“Slova Chanalah, you are so lucky!”
“Yes, you are so lucky. Hashem made such a big beautiful world and here you are able to see it. I have never seen such gorgeous trees and I am almost eighty years old. Now I can die! I’ve seen Hashem’s wonders. Oy what a world we have. I can’t believe it.”
Mama had a huge smile as she spoke. Her eyes shone and her wrinkled face spoke of years filled with gathered wisdom.
I learned something deep that day. A life lesson that I must often pull out from that fading memory that sits within my mind.
How do we see our world? How do we perceive our situation?
All of us have struggles and challenges; whether it is this pandemic or personal burdens that weigh us down. We can feel sorry for ourselves while worry and melancholy overtakes us. Or we can choose to see life through Mama’s eyes. To look for the beautiful palm trees, to share laughter with a loved one and to hug a child in your arms; this becomes a life-long mission. To see life with an ayin tovah, a positive outlook.
Mama’s eyes always sparkled. She never ceased to live with wonder. Every newborn I placed in her arms was a celebration. I recall once, as we visited with my toddler daughter, Mama looked at me with a bittersweet smile. “I only wish I could be at the chuppah of this one. But I will take each day I have and be grateful.”
To see life through Mama’s eyes is to live each day and see blessing.
We each have this opportunity. To work hard and work our gratitude muscle – not only for ourselves, but for our children and children’s children. To live life each day with joy, to see the light and not squander in darkness.