Defining Pathetic

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We all have within us the power to declare ourselves or our lives as “pathetic” or to overcome each challenge and to find the blessing in it. Perhaps the first step in avoiding the tag of “pathetic” is to recognize that whatever your situation, there is always (and I mean always) someone who is in a more pathetic situation than you.

Amazingly enough, what I have found over and over again, is that those who accept the pathetic label are rarely the people others would recognize as such. Truthfully, it is within our power to make this a mantel we accept or reject.

Years ago, I was explaining why moving to Israel was without question the best decision our family ever made. To encourage others, I wrote about our lives here and how we were blessed even before we came. There was the time that we had little money and after determining that we would like to purchase about $5,000 in electrical appliances to ship to Israel. With virtually nothing in the bank, this seemed impossible. Until, two days later, a man called and said that my husband had done some computer work for him and had yet to pay us. Pathetic

One call to my husband resulted in finding out that the man owed us about $5,500 and he came over that day to drop off a check. Then, there was receiving a job offer within days of our arrival; someone offering a partnership in a new company, and more. A short while after I wrote all this, someone wrote a nasty comment about how our aliyah was “easy” and therefore I had no right to encourage others.

Easy? I thought. How was my aliyah easy. Didn’t they know that my father-in-law was diagnosed with brain cancer just two weeks after we arrived? That my mother-in-law heard the same with the same horrible disease three months later? And, my husband fell and broke his wrist? Our relatively new, low mileage, in perfect condition without a scratch car was stolen? Add to that, a year after moving here, my husband was to sit shiva for his mother and twelve days later, start sitting shiva again for his father. Easy?

Ultimately, our aliyah story is positive and successful but it was never easy. Or rather, I always felt it was easier to move here than stay there.

A bit over a month ago, my father passed away after many years of health challenges. Simultaneously expected and unexpected. Even before he left us, a sense of acceptance settled within me. The doctors told us we had minutes to hours with him and we took advantage of that time.

After a week of mourning (shiva), we returned to his graveside on another windy winter day and a day later, I came down with a horrible cold that quickly turned into pneumonia. In the midst of trying to finalize plans for a national conference, pneumonia was the last thing I needed. The coughing got so bad, it was hard to think but the conference went off without a hitch.

Within days of having a sharp pain on my side, I knew I needed to go to the doctor but I had commitments and so I finished off what needed to be done. Finally, I went to the doctor again on Thursday and she sent me straight to the local TEREM (Israel’s amazing emergency medical center).

The Sabbath came amidst more food than I should have prepared. Children and grandchildren and the pain in my side continuing and making sleep difficult. TEREM’s 24 hour approximate time for an answer to the x-ray turned into much longer and only after Shabbat ended did I found out. Rib broken (probably from coughing).

The first word that came to mind was “pathetic”. How many people lose their father, get pneumonia and break a rib in the space of a few weeks? And even as the thought formed, I rejected it.

We know a young woman who has always inspired me though I’ve never told her how much. In her earliest years, something went wrong or something happened and her spine twisted a bit. For many years, she walked with a walker though at some point, she discarded this.

Invited to her home to share a meal with her family, there she was in the kitchen sitting on the counter making a salad. She is the epitome of sweet and smart and you’d be a fool to use the label “pathetic” on her. She is not crippled, though people might use that term if they only looked at the outside.

I know a mother of five children who is fighting cancer. She’s come so close to losing her battle and yet each time she reaches out, it is with words of love and faith.

Ultimately, how we choose to face each challenges says more about us than anything else. And that choice begins first and foremost with how we see ourselves. I know several pathetic people. In some cases, they live in beautiful homes and have wonderful children and yet nothing that happens is right. They aren’t denied happiness but rather choose to deny themselves.

As people entered my home to comfort me, I found myself explaining that my father was very blessed. He lived for 85 years, long enough to see all his children married, long enough to see 11 grandchildren born. More, he watched five of his grandsons drafted into the Israeli army and emerge from the experience safe…and stronger. And more, he watched five grandchildren marry. Still more, at the time of his death, God had bestowed upon him 8 great grandchildren.

So, the bottom line in life and in this post, is that if you can see the blessings, you can focus on the good. Really, with that single life choice, the word pathetic will never be applied to you.

And a broken rib? It’ll heal, God willing.

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