As I was driving down my regular route this morning, I was looking out the window at the children running to catch the bus on their way to school. People of all ages were running to make the light to cross the street. Babies were being pushed by their mothers while two or three siblings held onto the stroller. Eight- or ten-year-old boys were standing at the bus stop, and others were running to catch up to them. A crossing guard stood at the light, making sure it was safe to pass, having been at his post since early in the morning, as there are so many children who use this intersection on their way to school.
I am a people person. I notice people, I care about people, and I enjoy watching them as they run about their daily events not even noticing that someone is looking at them, let alone cares about them. Obviously, it’s only on a superficial level that I see them. I’m only a person like them. Not like G-d who watches us all the time on the deepest level and in the most caring and loving way in the world.
By noticing others, you are simply acknowledging that there are other people around you who have desires, lives, families, joys, aches, and hardships. It’s like you’re saying, “I care – I don’t know you, but I care. I recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around me, and even for just a fleeting moment I’m part of a whole picture called humanity.”
It is strange that we subconsciously see others as less than us, and in some way, we tend to feel that we are better than them. Especially if they are not like us, are of different color, of a different religion or even a different sect within Judaism, or are richer or poorer.
At the end of the day we are all just people: you, me, the President of the USA, the Queen of England, and so on. As I looked at the children on their way to school, I saw so many different faces. Some were happy, some looked sad, others annoyed and frustrated, while others completely indifferent. Strange how at such a young age these kids already show certain characteristics in their faces. Who are their parents? How are they being raised? Did they get a decent breakfast this morning, or were they rushed off to school with a bite for the road? Did they get a hug and a kiss today? Or was it business as usual: “Quickly! You’re going to miss the bus – run!”
When a child is born, it is his or her fate to be born into that particular family and those particular circumstances. That is G-d’s decision to make. Ours is to see each and every person as G-d’s creations born into the exact situations Hashem wanted for them. So why do we judge? Are we better? What makes us feel greater than the next? Perhaps if we were in their situation with the tools and circumstances they were given, we wouldn’t be so successful either. By looking out of your own space and routine, you see others. You see the differences and you see the wholeness of creation. There’s an expression that “not all fingers are the same,” but do we even recognize that they all belong to us?
Caring about one another doesn’t necessarily mean that we must stop others on the street and ask them what they need. (Although Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and other holy rabbis did just that. They used to approach anyone and everyone they met; they would be deeply concerned with their problems and would try to help them in any way possible. Most of us aren’t in the position to behave that way all the time.) What I’m speaking of is simply being aware. At a red light, look around, see the people on the sidewalk. See the children passing by, see the beggars and the less fortunate. Notice. See your whole hand, see all your “fingers.” Move them, feel them, thank G-d for what you have, and pray for others who might have less.
We will never know who really has less. Perhaps the rich or well-dressed are sad or ill. And maybe the ones who don’t look so put-together or who seem not quite normal are very happy and content with whatever it is that they have. We are taught, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But do notice it.
This week’s portion of the Torah is called Shemot, meaning “Names” – the names of the Jews who went down to Egypt. We are all names – people and souls who have come down to this world for a reason and who shall leave it after 120 years. We all count. That is why Hashem counted us, out of love, because he cares about us. By seeing others, by caring for others and feeling connected to them merely for the fact that we were all created in G-d’s image, we are emulating G-d. That makes us better and also creates a more caring world in which to live and bring up our children.