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Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy



Dear Rachel,

The other day I traveled into another town by bus. The ride took about two hours. It’s normally a little bit less, but there was a lot of traffic. I headed straight to the shop that was the main reason for my trip and climbed the two flights of steep stairs to get to the section I was eager to browse.

I don’t get there too often because of the distance from where I live, and of course the first thing I asked of the woman sitting behind the counter was for use of their restroom. She left me for a moment, apparently to consult with the owner, and returned to say “sorry, we don’t have one that is usable.”

A bit more than chagrined, I said how does that work exactly and explained where I was coming from and of my pressing need. Unmoved, she adamantly stuck to her stance and said their restroom is only for personnel, not for customers, and that I could use the facilities at any local pizza store.

I think ‏‏I was more perturbed by her lack of compassion than at my personal discomfort. This incident occurred a few years ago but came to mind the other day when I visited a local ladies apparel shop in upstate New York. With racks and racks of clothing crammed into a small space, the two aisles can accommodate only one person at a time. At the back there are two small curtained cubicles and a door on one side that opens to a tiny restroom.

As I browsed the racks of clothing, a young woman walked hurriedly into the store and asked to use the ladies room. Without hesitation, the saleslady pointed her in its direction. I later commented that it was nice of her to be so accommodating, especially in light of the fact that this woman had obviously no intention to buy anything.

This friendly saleswoman shrugged and said matter-of-factly why not. She then remarked that she had learned long ago never to judge anyone or assume their intent. There was a time when she’d thought she could smartly and easily differentiate between a customer entering the store to shop and one coming in simply with an ulterior motive, by their stride.

Until one time when someone walked in with a quickened pace, “obviously” having one purpose in mind. After emerging from the restroom, she actually shopped up a storm. Since then, she does not assume anything related to a potential customer.

One never knows


Dear One,

You don’t say whether you ended up making a purchase in that store where you were made to feel like a second-class citizen.

Truth is, as uncomfortable as it makes us feel to be denied such a basic need, we also should not be quick to judge. There are any number of reasons why a proprietor would be reluctant to allow the use of their private facility.

That said, it is written that we can never know which kind act of ours amounts to a small mitzvah or a big one. Yes, this too is a kindness, a chesed that is relatively so easy to perform. One can never know the enormity of a positive act that to our mind may feel like nothing yet reverberates in the heavens above and benefits our existence in this world.

Thank you for a timely lesson.


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