Clean your basement. Tidy your bedroom. Better yet, shovel the snow from your neighbor’s walkway. How do you feel afterwards? Sure, you’re a little tired. But chances are, you’re feeling different sensations than you did before the chore. The exertion and the accomplishment deposit you on firmer ground emotionally. As you put your feet up to take a load off, your clenched jaw is relaxing, your stiffened mood and mindset are softening.
This is an effect of doing deeds. These days, we seem to be over-indexed on words and under-indexed on works. We post. We posture. We perform online. Even right here and now, if you’re still reading, I’m being complicit in this trend by writing this message.
But doing can change a lot more than saying does. Of course, words matter. A tender compliment can be all you need to get through a tough day. Yet the impact of doing a deed is something that’s under-celebrated. In addition to upgrading your mood, it can relax your mind. I’ve heard it said, “It’s easier to act your way into new ways of thinking, than to think your way into new ways of acting.”
This week’s portion of Torah presents a construction plan for a portable sanctuary. It is largely deed-driven. Actually, the hundreds of commandments of the Torah are categorized as things to do and things to not-do. The sanctuary’s perimeters are framed by “beams of acacia wood, standing upright” (om’dim)(Ex. 27:15). They are to be positioned upright, the way trees grow. I prefer to interpret this as the way of growth. That is, when we stand during the personal standing-prayer (amida) we’re poised to grow. Being upright is the posture for inner-growth.
For some time now, we’ve come across signs that read, ‘If you see something, say something.’ My good friend Josh Kraft put it better some years ago when he wrote,“If you can say something, you can do something.”
Try it this weekend. Do a task on purpose. Even better, do something for somebody else. Then take note of that new-life that’s been poured inside you, of that fresh-drive you’re feeling. These emotional-goods tip-toed up behind you, while you were doing something else. And even if they’re more timid and harder to detect, it’s ok. Because you’ve still accomplished something.