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There is a Judeo-Christian concept, which you have probably heard over and over again: When you are experiencing some kind of pain or malady, you should pray for others before praying for yourself or your loved ones. When we pray to have mercy on others, the hope is that G-d or that some higher power will have mercy on us and the people we love.
It’s a wonderful concept, it goes to the heart of what being a good person is all about, but I don’t believe we develop this idea to its natural conclusion. Because sometimes this idea about more than prayer. It’s about action.
There have been many moments throughout my life where I have raised my hands up to the heavens and asked for help. Where I looked to G-d and asked, begged, pleaded with Him to come to my aid, to provide me with some kind of miracle to keep me on the right track. Health, wealth, happiness, I have looked and prayed and cried to the sky asking for guidance.
And then the miracle happens. It comes in the form of a gesture, or a “thank you,” or an unexpected check from someone I did not think about. It comes in the form of a pat on the back. It comes from many different people in many different situations at many different moments in many different forms. But it almost always comes from people. From miracle agents (who often don’t even know they are being miraculous) who change our lives forever.
A friend of mine once told me the story that one day she was having a terrible day. She was depressed. She was in one of the worst funks of her life. She was in one of those places where you just hate the world and the people in it. (Don’t act like you’ve never been there – we all have!)
As my friend was coming home from work on a packed New York City subway, some woman, a woman who could sense her pain, stood up and offered my friend her seat on the train. My friend looked at this woman and said, “I’m only going a few stops, it’s ok, really.” But the woman said to her, “I can tell that you need the seat more than I do, please, take my seat.”
My friend was so touched by the gesture that she felt a renewed faith in people and started the uphill climb out of her funk. Some random woman on a New York City subway was the miracle my friend needed to get her through the hardness.
But the story doesn’t end there. About two years after the subway incident, my wife and I were at my friend’s house for a meal. My friend looked at my wife and said, “Hmm…I know you from somewhere. Where do I know you? Have we met before?” The entire meal we would be talking about something and all of a sudden my friend would say to my wife, “Where do I know you from?”
When we got to dessert, my friend hit the table and said, “I know! You were the one who gave me a seat on the subway that day! I can’t believe it’s you, this is crazy!”
My wife barely remembered the incident until my friend reminded her of what happened. My wife was just being nice, it was “barely a thing,” but to my friend it made all the difference in the world.
And since that point, and I’m sure my wife will agree, my friend and her family have been miracles to us in more ways than you can ever imagine. The miracle has been returned a thousand-fold.
What’s the point? The point is that the smallest things we do can make the greatest difference in people’s lives. And when we look to G-d or to the heavens to ask for a miracle, what we should first do is look around and see how we can be the miracle for someone else. Even if it’s simply saying thank you, or asking someone how he or she is doing, or offering a seat on a subway ride.
If you need a miracle then deserve a miracle. Better said, if you need a miracle then be someone else’s miracle. At the end of the day each one of us is an agent of G-d and He brings about miracles through us. We are all angels. We are all miracles. As we celebrate Memorial Day, remember this concept and watch your life change forever.