To My Dear Sons:
There are lessons in every experience. Your dear father has figured in many of my best life lessons.
As we settled onto the local bus that would take us to the meeting point for our tour, I started assessing the stuff around us. We’d traveled several blocks when I realized that the bag with lunch in it was missing.
“I left the bag at the bus stop!” I cried, dismayed.
Immediately we put our heads together, and began a logistical problem-solving session. Your father, my “Dearly Beloved,” asked if we could manage without the bag. The tour director had said to bring lunch, snacks and water, indicating a shortage of same at the other end of our two-and-a-half-hour trip. We might have to go without food for twelve hours or more.
We were going to write it off. We’re Jews. We’ve practiced fasting for decades. (Well, not all at once.) I could part with the Edmund Crispin novel I’d shlepped around for thirty years of re-reads. (How noble I felt, being able to let go an old paperback friend!) The fresh-off-the-press easy-Hebrew magazine would be harder to part with… but the Hebrew textbook would cost about a hundred shekels to replace. Beyond acceptable.
“I can jump off here!” I said at a stop on the way.
“You walk pretty fast,” he agreed. “Go for it!”
“I’ll try to be on time!” I said as I leapt from my seat, hoping I transmitted in that one sentence: “Thanks for not screaming at me for my stupidity… Please try to stall them if you can… Thanks again for not making me feel bad…”
I jumped off the bus and crossed the street in time to catch a return bus. In a few moments, I was at our first stop. Baruch Hashem, the bag was still there. So were a number of elderly Israeli ladies with advice, chastisement, stories of their own.
I was a little concerned about whether or not the bus would make it on time — but again, baruch Hashem! — the bus made it!
When I arrived at our meeting point, the Dearly Beloved met me with a vast smile of approval.
We and The Bag settled into our seats on the tour bus. I thanked the Dearly Beloved for his attitude.
“If you had behaved as so many people do, if you’d asked me ‘How could you be so careless?’ — I would have lost it. I wouldn’t have been able to think I could be instrumental in solving the problem. Thank you.”
“Are you kidding?” he said. “Do you remember all the times I have forgotten something, or spent money we didn’t have?”
We said more nice, comforting things to each other:
“Anyone can make that mistake!”
“I can count the number of times I’ve done that.”
We had a magical, wonderful day — a day that would have been soured by unkind words or even disapproving facial expressions.
Dearest sons — let me make you proud of your father.
For the time I dropped the expensive translation device out of my open pocket while gazing at the amazing Jordanian cliffs, and he just said “Weren’t they beautiful?!”
For the time I climbed hurriedly into a tremp, dropping the plastic bag with the expensive digital camera, and all he said was “Thank God we got a ride!”
For the time I left the brand-new book at the Jerusalem Festival Circus of Light show, and all he said was “Wasn’t that breathtaking? And some special child in the Old City will find that book, and know that it was left just for him.”
When human beings chastise their partners, their children, their friends, we don’t solve the problem. We don’t bring back the object or the money or the moment.
If your father had asked me “How could you be so stupid?” with words or expression or sigh, I would have become at that moment useless. When we criticize, we destroy the other person’s genius. We destroy the other’s ability to be a hero, to solve a problem.
May I and you be wise enough to speak as does your dear father, my Dearly Beloved. I give you blessings that you will treat your own relationships with so much precious care.