I did a little shopping for food the other day and had a cartful at check-out. I started to unload.
A young man in a hurry (you can just tell) with only two items takes a place behind me. I turn to him and say, "Go ahead of me."
He does so, grateful.
Then a really famous and successful (we assume, K"H)* restaurateur gets behind me with his cart, not empty, not full, maybe 7 items. But I don't want to let him in, too, or I'll never get out of there. I try to pretend I haven't noticed him and continue to unload. At some point he catches my eye.
"I'm really sorry," I say (always guilty), "I'd let you in, too, but you know how it is. First you let one person in, then another, then another. You're at Hungarian all day long! You know how much the store's take is at the end of the day!"
Kenny laughs and says, "Don't worry about it. I'm in NO hurry."
"Great. So how are ya'?" I ask. May as well make small talk. I'm in a good mood.
"I woke up this morning," he smiles. "So many choices."
"That's my father's line," I shoot back, "I woke, up," he says, "didn't I?"
"No, it's true," Kenny objects, even though I'm agreeing. "I wake up. I look over. I see her. And I'm so grateful to be alive." He continues awhile about all that he's grateful for, a sunny day, that sort of thing, and I nod, agree. We've got time while the cashier is scanning away.
"Everyone could think this way," I say, "when they wake up."
He gives me a skeptical look, one of those raised eyebrow things, as in, YOU should know better.
"I guess not."
So easy to forget. Life is tough. It can be very tough.
This time of year people are grateful, though. For all my talk about how sad people are, and how distressing the holidays can be, and it's true, the season can be brutal, at the very end it seems, on Xmas eve and the days before the new year, people come in all warm and fuzzy. The conflictual couples conflict less. People try this time of year. They even make New Years resolutions.
So I'll say it again, even though in my gut I know it's impossible. Everyone could think this way. I got up today. It's good.
It's a goal, is all.
Rabbi Polstein in Chicago tells this one. He's taught this annecdote to his students.
It's a few hours before a holiday (in this case, Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year).So Rabbi Polstein gave a class on a snowy morning and told us that once, after telling this story, he happened to be in a grocery store a few hours before Shabbas, and almost the same thing happened. People had lined up at the check-out and the cashier told a woman just ahead of him that her credit card had been rejected.
Everyone's cart is full. Everyone's in a hurry. The grocery store is mobbed. The lines are long. At the very front of the line a man, new to the neighborhood, has checked out. His groceries are in the bag. He reaches into his pocket for his wallet. He can't find it.
Everyone's waiting around trying to think of what to do, and a rabbi, clearly not a rich man, hands him his credit card. "Just take it," the rabbi says.
The guy argues, "No, no, how can I do that." (Everyone else is going, take it, take it). Finally he does, and of course, after the holiday, he pays back the rabbi right away.
She has a load of groceries. It's an expensive order.
The rabbi says to himself, Polstein, Polstein, this is your big test! What are you going to do? What are you going to do? He's shifting his weight, scratching his beard, tzittering (basically, worrying)
Finally, he can stand it no longer. He pulls out his credit card and offers it to the woman who is still leafing through her wallet to no avail.
"Here, take mine," he says.
She looks at him like he's crazy. "What? You think I have only one credit card?"
A happy 2008, my friends.
* K"H removes the evil eye.