Investing in life’s true pleasures

A friend explained that she hosts guests for hagim for reasons beyond “Jewish Geography” or comparing accents. Another gal pal insists that the hours she spends with distressed individuals, helping them with shidduchim has little to do with gaining access to their private lives. Still another loved one makes weekly visits to children of immigrants to aid them with their homework. Feelings of superiority are nowhere on her mind.
Whereas we are not permitted to give away resources of time, money or self to the extent that we can no longer function, we are encouraged to live a life that includes the constant consideration of the needs of others. “Others” include not only Hashem, but also Hashem’s creations, especially his chosen people.
I have watched a yeshiva bucher help an elder carry sefarim. I have witnessed a bus driver allow a less than mindful matron “owe” her fare. I have observed a government official “look the other way” when parents had trouble placing their daughter in school.
The stricture to get beyond our egos is more self-serving than it is altruistic. Folks who focus on the greater good are, at once, able to put their own problems into perspective and are consequently able to rise beyond their challenges. Also, persons who make other people’s welfare integral to their daily doings tend to have support when they fall. What’s more, individuals who are habitually mindful of the issues boggling their fellow citizens, tend to be proficient in grasping their own boundaries and usually possess a fairly well-defined self.
The family that serves as a touchstone for local seminary girls received free childcare, complimentary meals and extensive loans when part of their house burned down. The twenty-something who volunteers for a private ambulance core had an entire block full of people waiting to congratulate him at his wedding. The midlife mom who runs a school uniform recycling program, learned that her own son had been spared the cost of an expensive text by a family who also manages a gemach.
What’s more, the dad who regularly drives food from one free pantry to another was promoted at his workplace for good time management. Also, the teens who frequently bring their community’s plastic
bottles to a city-designated bin, found a homework notebook which one of them had lost among their street’s trash. Similarly, a youth who advocates for the rights of the blind was able to use those skills to argue his case for being accepted into a respectable law school.
We’re told that "The Boss" looks favorably upon those of us who emulate his traits. Any outward-directed kindnesses, i.e. compassion for other souls, or manifestations of forgiveness toward them, have the power to earn us His good graces.
It’s of little doubt that the friend who stands when his parents enter a room and who serves them the choicest of food from his table will live a long and prosperous life. The preschooler who almost always remembers to say “please” and “thank-you” will find her transition to gan astoundingly easy. It is also the case that the pensioner who weekly and sincerely compliments his ulpan teacher will succeed in his studies.
Not because we ought to want to excel in the social milieu, not because we ought to want to bank psychological bonuses and not because we ought to want to stock up on points in Shemayim that we need to embrace a life full of deeds of loving kindness. More exactingly, we ought to want to run toward such beauty because actualizing those behaviors pleases G-d.
My offspring report, smiles on their faces, that they’ve invited more guests to our Shabbat table. My husband reveals, voice filled with humble satisfaction, that he took a little longer than usual disassembling our sukkah because he helped our neighbors take theirs apart, too. The lady who sits next to me in shul noticeably brightens because she’s assisted a much younger congregant in finding her place during prayers.
Regardless of why we get pleasure from performing mitzvot, giving of ourselves is delightful. We smile when we break our meals into halves so that someone can be fed, feel as though we are part of a greater entity when we slip a few coins into a less financially endowed person’s hand and sigh authentically when we see how happy local children become when enabled to “borrow” bits of  string or foil for their playtime. There are many ways in which we can share our wherewithal. There are many ways in which we can reap the concomitant joy.
Every time one of my students drops a half shekel in a tzedakah box, it counts as a mitzvah. Every time one of my friends calls another friend to chat and to see if she needs a loaf of bread, a trip run to the dry cleaners, or any other errand completed, it counts as a blessing. Every time an acquaintance helps a young mother lift her baby carriage onto a public bus, that acquaintance gets a gold star in the heavenly palace.
We are obliged to live ecstatically. We are required to enrich our hours with gratitude, with elation. Too often we allow mundanities such as unpaid bills, sick parents, missed taxis and the like to deter us from the elevations we might otherwise attain. Nevertheless, even minus our carbuncles and cables, we can climb anyway. We can rise beyond soiled reality by keeping our focus on external welfare, by keeping the center of our attention on how we can help others.
This morning, I couldn’t find the right cup for my tea. The socks I wanted to wear were not on the clothesline. An email, for which I had been waiting, failed to appear. However, I had the chance to call a widowed friend, to check in on some youths whose parents were engaged in kiruv in another country, and to share encouragement with a son, who was scheduled for a math exam.
My day was entirely beautiful.