November 29, 2011

Yielding to a Dental Road Block

A few days ago, my dental hygienist's office called, asking me to please give my upcoming appointment to someone who really needed that slot. No problem. I am flexible. They gave me a new appointment for the next morning at 10:30. I worked, got in the car and drove there. I found parking and walked over.

 I arrived on time to find a very agitated woman waving around a slip of paper and shouting, "My appointment is at 10:30. I had to rearrange my whole day to be here. I had to drive from the next town to be here."

"Look," she shouted, gaining momentum. She shoved the paper in the receptionist's face. "Ït says Tuesday at 10:30."

The receptionist apologized. "I am sorry. There was a mistake."

Israelis are called sabras, those prickly pear cacti that are covered with a myriad of tiny thorns, almost impossible to touch, yet somewhere deep inside, sweet. Another toughened prickly pear, I thought, resigning myself to a long wait, and a heated battle. I sat back and opened my book.

The receptionist turned from the woman and looked at me. "Are you Nicole? Your appointment is at 10:30. The hygienist will be with you shortly." I sat down and felt uncomfortable. Yes. This was my slot. It was official. I closed my book. I could not concentrate.

 The woman across from me started up again. She had a grandchild on her lap who was growing as agitated as she was. I wondered what she was expecting to do with that toddler while the hygienist was digging around her gums. I squirmed as she started her tirade once more. It was so noisy, the hygienist came out to see what was going on. Yet as soon as she saw this woman's reddened face, the poor hygienist ran for cover, closing the door behind her.

 The waiting room was at a stand still. The appointment was mine. Someone in the office had clearly made a mistake. Yet someone had to give in. There is always a quick moment when we calculate our options before making a decision. We all want to be right. We all want to receive. We often feel that things are owed to us. Like this appointment. It was mine and they had already this appointment on me. Yet here we all were in a dental road block. Someone had to yield.

Israelis are compared to the fruit of a prickly pear cactus.
 I stood up and told the assistant that I will give my appointment to this woman. The receptionist looked surprised. I explained that I do not live far and will call in to make another appointment. I looked at the angry woman. She was silenced. Surprised. She had already put on her boxing gloves and did not expect this. A prickly pear cactus that had ripened in the sun, she sat down calmly and smiled. "Thank you very much," she said. Relieved, the receptionist smiled.

 I walked outside. The magenta sky was deep, full. The sun warmed me as I stepped onto the main street. It was alive with people; young mothers pushing strollers, people sitting in outdoor cafes, sipping espressos, reading newspapers, women carrying bags laden with groceries. My daughter's favorite busker, an old Russian man with a black beret and a twinkle in his eye, happily played 'Hava Nagila' on his accordian. I was just given a fresh moment. Unexpected. I decided to make use of it. Be in it.

 In our world, people value power and as a result, strong people are admired. Worshiped. The powerful win elections,fame and promotions. They also lead battles, run dictatorships and sweat shops. They are constantly clambering up a ladder of struggle, anger, conflict and hate.

 I recently learned in a Torah shiur that Judaism does not value power. In fact, it is just the opposite. Strength in Judaism is equated with giving in and giving up. Just plain and simple giving. When we yield, the world is a softer, gentler place. When we give, we are not 'fryerim,' as many Israelis believe. It does not hurt to peel off that prickly outer layer. When we give, we are trying, in our own tiny ways, to bring Hashem into the world.

 This Life Vest Inside video says it all.

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