Inasmuch as the American Government is currently shutdown, I decided now would be an appropriate time to write a new blogg entry. My thought process went as follows: I have thousands of viewers across the vast planet. Hundreds of them are undoubtedly government officials, park rangers, and museum employees. Therefore, they need something to do these next few days-- so figured I would do the United States a service, and provide everyone effected from the shutdown with compelling, beautiful, thought-provoking, and downright brilliant reading material. So to all my readers from America to China-- you're very welcome.
Tonight I wanted to write about one Friday morning in the month of April. For many, April 19th 2013 was a day like any other. But for the city of Boston, April 19 2013 is a day that will not soon be forgotten. Boston was locked down, and the police and SWAT teams were patrolling the streets, performing a manhunt for the cruel, sadistic Boston Marathon Bomber. As I sat, staring at cnn.com, watching this, I realized that every single one of these brave, heroic boston Police officers was risking their lives so that Boston-- and all of America-- could be safe. I realized, almost in an epiphany, that every day, police officers and firefighters risk their lives, so that we can be safe and live in comfort and security.
Then I thought to myself, its quite likely that these heroes are greatly undervalued and under appreciated. How often do we thank them? How often do we look at them with disdain, casting them off, along with their stupid speed traps? How many times do we laugh uncontrollably when we see their cruisers parked outside Dunkin Donuts?
I realized that every day we need to value and thank these heros-- But with the Bostonian police officers on the streets of Boston actively risking their lives-- today was the day to express my gratitude. I decided to bring these heros some goodies to express my thanks. I drove to Trader Joes, and I purchased a few of the containers of their deliciously delicious chocolate peanut-butter cups. From TJs I headed down to the station. When I walked in, a lady was chatting with the police man, who signaled for me to come in. I put down the bag of goodies and said, "with everything going on in Boston, I felt responsible to come in and express to you the incredible amount of gratitude I have towards you guys, for protecting us. Sometimes you might feel unnoticed and unappreciated. But we notice you, and appreciate it very much. Thank you, and G-d bless you." The policeman dumb-foundedly looked at me, and asked what organization these were from. Surprised by the question, I simply responded, no organization-- they were just from me-- a simple American.
Judaism teaches that gratitude is a fundamental value incumbent upon us at all times. The Torah teaches that the first thing I am required to do every morning, even before jumping out of bed-- is to thank the Almighty for allowing me to wake up, and remain alive. Undoubtedly, hundreds of people every night throughout the world do not wake up. How fortunate are we every day that G-d returns us our souls.
It is hard to fathom anything more frustrating than working very hard at something, expending enormous effort on behalf of someone, and going unnoticed, and unthanked. One of the harshest descriptions one can use to describe a job, is to describe it as "thankless." A person can go through a day, accomplish incredible things, and go completely unvalued. Most of us though who go un-thanked (fortunately I am not included in this category of human beings) don't receive acknowledgement for trivial things like making the coffee, or helping a coworker. Police, however, go un-thanked as they risk their own lives for our safety and well-being. And the truth us, most human beings have a basic need to be acknowledged. Fascinatingly, the word in hebrew for gratitude, "Hoda'ah" is the same as the word in hebrew for acknowledgement. To thank someone is to acknowledge them as a human being. To ignore them, is to dehumanize them. There are stories told of how victims of the Nazi Holocaust demanded that their murderers look them in the eye before killing them--forcing them, at the very least, to acknowledge that they were butchering not rodents, but human beings.
Despite having no malicious intent, many of us hurriedly run through our busy lives, failing to thank those who help us. It is our duty as decent human beings, to start thanking anyone and everyone. Thank the nice person who cleaned your table before you sit down to eat. Thank the lady for being your cashier after buying a bagel. Thank your parents for their constant love. Thank your spouse for being your spouse. Thank your garbage man and your mail man. Thank your child's teachers. Thank the shutdown American government for giving you freedom-- for us Jews, a religious freedom unprecedented in the history of our long and brutal exile.
And most importantly, thank the Almighty for all the wonderful gifts He has given you.