This past week was a bit of a nail biter for us. Sid and I have a small place in Florida and it was for several days in the “Cone of Uncertainty” regarding Hurricane Dorian. As we ultimately escaped its wrath, it was only a bittersweet sigh of relief as I heard more of the devastation of the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island. The feeling is not unlike that at Passover as we remember our exodus from Egypt, dipping our pinky in the cup of wine for each of the plagues, removing some of the joy as we remember the sadness of the Egyptians.
When I was a little girl sitting in the back seat of the car during the nightly rides, entertainment in the ‘50s, I would watch my mother look at our reflections in the mirror of her passenger seat visor. She would say, referring to my brother, “He’s the bad one,” looking at me, “You’re the good one,” and to my younger sister, “and you’re somewhere in between.” We could spend a lot of time reflecting on the dysfunction in that experience, but the net effect it had on me ironically became a good one – I can’t stand comparing myself to others, nor comparing my loved ones to others. It was so revolting to be in that scenario as a child that my inclination is to do just the opposite. I was powerless then to change the horrible experience for my siblings, only childishly hoping somehow they could be in the favored position.
I guess that would not make me a very good beauty pageant judge, but it has served me well in my day-to-day life to not compare what I have with what that of others. I tend to be satisfied with what I have been given and motivated to achieve based on personal goals rather than comparisons.
The dysfunctional childhood experience has helped me to not covet my neighbor’s belongings, or compare my house to theirs, or my children to other children, or my salary with my colleague’s salary. So oddly wonderful that this negative behavior could result in something good, how our Abba redeems us even from unfortunate circumstances to be used for good ultimately.
I have been known to laugh at slapstick humor and banana peel falls which I understand has an element of “glad it’s him and not me.” But that may be where it ends with comparing the misfortune of another against my own.
So when the news of the devastation in the Bahamas became known about the same time as it looked like our area in Florida would be spared, I could feel relieved but not joyful as I thought of the sadness in the Bahamas, just as we remember the Egyptians at Passover. There was, in fact, a comparison being made, but one of wishing the other’s experiences were more like mine rather than relieved that mine was not like theirs. It was reminiscent of the feelings I had as a child, wishing my brother and sister would be looked at in the more loving way that I was, such a subtle, yet important, difference in world view.
How we look at others in relationship to ourselves deeply shapes our own experiences and how we relate to those in our lives. We can choose to see what HaShem has given us, not to compare our situation wishing for more, but rather, to be grateful for the blessings. Yet when we are blessed in ways we know are difficult for others, we are incentivized through our actions to help and comfort, to share His love, no longer powerless for truly with Him, all things are possible.