When I was a little girl growing up in Lincolnwood, Illinois my mother and I used to shop at a local grocery store next to our town. One year, once I was old enough to articulate the feeling, I expressed to my parents that I was upset that the store was not decorated with Hanukkah decorations alongside the Christmas ones. We were not even close to the only Jewish customers of the store so it came as a surprise that there was not even one barely visible, tiny menorah to be found. My parents discussed the issue and decided that we would ask the owners if it would be possible for them to put up a few tasteful Hanukkah decorations that we would purchase and donate to the store for years to come. They kindly agreed and one trip later to a local Party City we had done something.
This summer I moved from downtown Chicago to the northern suburb of Highland Park where my husband grew up. It is an understatement to say that I love the place and I love the new apartment building that we moved into. The town has a large, vibrant Jewish community and the building that we live in reflects that. I didn’t grow up in this town so I don’t take it for granted yet when someone wishes me a “Chag Sameach” or a “Shabbat Shalom”. More than likely I never will.
Three weeks ago the building decorated our lobby with beautiful Christmas decorations. The Christmas decor is festive and tasteful and I was looking forward to the following day when I was absolutely certain that a menorah or dreidel would be added to the mix. The decorations didn’t come the next day, or the next, or the week after, or the following week after that. In fact, as we light the first candle behind closed doors in our apartments tonight there is still be no menorah or dreidel suggesting that we too have a winter holiday that we are excited to observe.
Two and a half weeks into the decorated lobby without any signs of decorations to come I channeled the energy that my parents had years before at the local grocery store and went out and purchased a menorah and small decorative dish to add to the decor. I came home after a long day of Sunday afternoon Hanukkah shopping and placed the items down on the lobby’s coffee table next to the Christmas tree and really felt good about what I had done. The only difference between what I did two weeks ago and what I did with my parents decades ago is that I didn’t ask permission to put my items down. Why? Because I have been so conditioned to keep my mouth shut and not make a scene that I decided I would quietly do something to make my point and hopefully provide a small contribution to the new building that I call home. I might have overstepped my boundaries but would do it again and again because I truly feel so blessed to have something that I care so deeply about. By the time I got home on Monday night my menorah and decorative dish were both gone and the lobby appeared as it had before I made my move: fully decorated and ready for Christmas. My addition had not been replaced with decorations purchased for and by the building. It was just gone.
Everyone in my life who I am close to knows that I am someone who is not easily shocked by most events. Not only was I shocked, at this point I was also appalled and incredibly sad. I decided that I would give it until the first night of Hanukkah, tonight, to contact our property manager and ask the question, “Why?”. While I have plenty of theories and am looking forward to an explanation, what I’m really hoping for is to make a positive change: to have done something, no matter how small.
My point is a simple one. If you care about something, you’re incredibly fortunate. My advice? Stop talking about it and try to do something. Little things really do have the power to have a huge impact. A small spark really does ignite a huge flame. Thank you Mom and Dad, for showing me how to not only have a sense of occasion but to rise to one.