William Hamilton

Please tell me more

Consider the frozen stare of an unintroduced neighbor. It produces a setting thick with discomfort. By contrast, the remarkable hospitality in this week’s portion of Torah paints the opposite picture. 

Abraham’s servant is on a mission to find a bride for Isaac. Rebecca’s vigorous hospitality astonishes him. It leaves him speechless. “He wondrously stood there astonished, silently watching her” provide jugs of water to quench the thirst of each camel (Gen. 24:21). 

The servant’s emotional response reminds me of a quote attributed to the poet Maya Angelou. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Talking about certain things is hard. Sadness, for example. Mourning the loss of someone you love, expressing your emptiness when you’re feeling down, can make you fumble over your words as you struggle to find the right ones. Yet, as the writer Susan Cain recently shared on Simon Sinek’s podcast, “Sharing sorrows is one of the great bonding mechanisms that human beings have developed.” 

When you don’t know what to say, when you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, what words tend to work? Please tell me more.

You may be thinking ‘I’d love to tell them something helpful.’ Yet, there is no clever piece of advice that will help people more than making them feel heard will. 

It’s no accident that Abraham’s servant tells more to Rebecca’s family, in more detail, than any other person in the Torah does. Of course, he’s feeling gratitude, not pain. But he’s feeling deeply. And feelings, whether you’re an un-introduced guest, a joyous celebrant, or someone whose eyes look red, like you’ve been crying, only ask to be expressed and recognized. 

When you sincerely say please tell me more you’re also expressing your readiness to listen more. Try it this weekend. May you discover what you yourself have learned over the years: that people never forget how you make them feel.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
Related Topics
Related Posts