"She's ignoring me!" thought Raizel bitterly.
"She talks to everybody else but me!"
A group of her school friends were sitting in a semi-circle
on the grass in the park. The girls were enjoying the last
few days of summer vacation, and had decided to make a
cookout to discuss plans for the upcoming school year.
Raizel was a shy girl who didn't have too much to say, but
expected everyone to talk to her. Her days were spent making
sure that no one tampered with her self proclaimed prestige,
and checking if anyone had taken advantage of her, directly
or indirectly. She did have a humorous side and she'd giggle
with her classmates, as long as she was sure that she wasn't
the butt of their jokes. Never having asked anyone if her
assumptions were correct, she lived in a paralyzing bubble of
anger and resentment that no one was aware of.
From her vigil over the barbeque, Chana called out cheerily,
"Anyone want more franks? The next batch is ready!"
"Hey, where are the buns?" asked Shoshana.
"And the mustard!" added Chavi. "Who saw it last?"
"Shevi, could you pass the ketchup?" "Pickles for me!"
A gaggle of happy voices accompanied the passing around of
condiments. Only one girl in the group noticed that Raizel
was emptyhanded. Chana walked over to her and asked if she'd
like a frank-on- roll. "With or without?" Instead of the
grateful thanks she expected, all Chana got was a grumpy,
"To each his own," thought Chana, with an internal shrug of
Raizel was seething inside. "Now she finally decides to offer
me? I always get last! People never respect me!" But
characteristically, she didn't say anything.
After the girls had their fill of drinks and nosh and all
future plans for the school year were confirmed as standing,
they cleaned up and went home in chummy togetherness. Only
one girl lagged behind: Raizel.
"It's not fair. Malky is always the center of attention. Why
don't the girls crowd around me for a change?" These and
other thoughts circled through Raizel's mind.
Since she had been given the cold shoulder by Raizel, Chana
did not feel obligated to stand apart from the crowd just to
be kind to her. Chana was new and it bothered her to see that
most of the girls steered clear of Raizel. Now she understood
that it was her attitude that kept them away. Nonetheless,
Chana decided she would try to reach out again at the next
opportunity. It came along pretty soon. It was before Rosh
Hashona and the girls were exchanging Shona Tova cards. Chana
was the only one who decorated one for Raizel. As she neared
Raizel's desk with a friendly smile, Chana could detect dark
gloomy clouds in her eyes. Dropping the card on Raizel's
desk, Chana was caught off guard. "I'm not forgiving you!"
Raizel said angrily.
"What did I do?" exclaimed Chana, incredulous. Here she was,
the only one paying Raizel any attention -- rebuffed! Raizel
left the room in a huff, conspicuously leaving the card
Years passed. The girls graduated high school, went on to
seminary and eventually married. Only Raizel, her chip still
firmly on her shoulder, remained single eight years later,
waiting for the world to wake up to her worth. At work, her
cubicle was avoided after her coworkers' initial attempts at
friendship were thrown in their faces.
Raizel nursed her anger in silence. It was directed at
teachers for not having cultivated her talents, at classmates
for having ignored her special qualities, at
shadchonim who undervalued her and at her coworkers
who considered her a snob. In her own eyes, Raizel was still
close to perfection. If nothing went right for her, it was
all due to circumstances; nothing was her fault, of
Coming home from work one day, Raizel took a short cut
through the grounds of an old age home. She was startled by a
"Hello," she replied.
"Won't you come sit by a lonely old woman for a bit?" Mrs.
Unable to think of a likely refusal, Raizel obliged.
"I am so grateful to be here," she piped up from her
wheelchair. "Aren't these grounds lovely? And isn't the
weather just glorious today? Makes you happy to be alive!"
Raizel marveled at her zest but for her part, only grunted in
"You know, I wasn't always like this."
Raizel didn't know, and hardly cared. She assumed that Mrs.
Meyer must have been young and ambulatory at some past point.
"I used to be quite grumpy, in fact. I never realized how
well off I was until... Oh, well, it's a long story. I'm sure
someone so young and lovely as yourself is not interested.
You probably don't have time..."
Surprised at the compliment, bribed by the fact that someone
was deigning to finally look at her from the bottom up,
Raizel decided to stay.
"It took me 83 years," continued Mrs. Meyers, "to learn to
appreciate the wonderful things I have and, sadly, had. All
too late. My late husband was caring and thoughtful, but no
matter what he said, did or thought, it was not good enough
for me. If he bought me a necklace, I'd tell him that
cocktail rings were `in' this year. When he bought me a
candelabra, I said that we really needed a new chandelier
much more. If he offered a vort on the parsha,
I always knew it better or different. None of his sweet words
could satiate my overinflated ego. This treatment repeated
itself with my children: if they called, I'd say nastily,
`Oh, so you finally remembered your mother?' "
Mrs. Meyer lapsed into contrite silence, oblivious to
Raizel's squirming. Comprehension began to dawn and it sat
uncomfortably with her. Why, this could have been she, in an
older version, projected in the past-future with a husband
and children. Raizel had vivid recollections of the way she
had spoken to people who had tried to be kind to her. She
felt that she had received a divine message meant `souly' for
Mrs. Meyer wasn't finished. "I recall how the negativity
weighed me down with an unusual amount of aches and pains. I
feel much lighter now without all that emotional baggage,
much healthier, even here in this wheelchair."
Raizel nodded slowly in sympathy and empathy, encouraging
Mrs. Meyer to continue.
"The turning point came only a year ago, when I was finally
thrown into this old age home by irate family members. Our
relationship had finally become unbearable and the whole
world seemed to agree that I had a right to mope. I thought
this extended to the other `inmates' in our home. But this
was disproved by the lady next door, Golda, whom everyone
refers to as Golden Golda. She's still smiling away at 94 and
bringing cheer to everyone around her. She lost everything in
the Holocaust and never remarried, but she has a constant
stream of visitors.
"I watched Golda carefully for a while and realized that she
never waited for anyone to come and give her attention,
rather, she doled it out to others. I went into her room and
asked her to share her secret with me. She said that she
always looks for something to be grateful for and focuses on
"At this point, I had lost most of my contact with my family.
Not that I blame them. But I decided to make the best of what
was left of my life and to try to enjoy it, to be happy. I
started imitating Golda and didn't wait for people to smile
at me, but smiled brightly, even just to myself. I began
counting Hashem's blessings, like my ability of speech, the
functioning of all my body parts, my mind, and the fine
things around me. And now I am truly grateful for more and
more, as I realize all I have."
Mrs. Meyer stopped to catch her breath. A beatific smile lit
up her features.
Raizel felt a trickle of gratitude seeping into her heart and
decided to act on it. "Would you like me to wheel you into
the lobby?" she offered.
"No thanks, it's fine outside. But I would like to thank you
for your company."
She beamed a special smile as Raizel turned to go, and added,
"If you ever have a moment's time, just look me up again. Ask
anyone for me -- Raizel Meyer."