Making a Life List of Righteous People

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sometimes we all need help, and many times, as this reader points out, we can be the ones who give it.

Not too long ago, I thought it would be worthwhile to write about the folks who did me wrong in my life. It seemed important to chronicle all the crimes and misdemeanors and to name those who perpetrated the offenses. You know how that goes, I am sure. Every one of us has laid blame at the feet of real and perceived offenders.

My anger of choice is usually tears, although sitting and staring into space can be helpful, too. I personally like to list the indiscretions and ruminate over what happened. In the right mood, I can time travel to the age of 5 and really get myself into a twist.

At the risk of sounding like a self-help book, I'm now in a different place. I understand the concept of actually looking at the bright side. I've started a different kind of inventory, kind of like "It's A Wonderful Life," about the men, women and children who helped along the way. What would have happened if they hadn't been there for me?

In the Jewish religion, it is said the world is perpetually sustained by 36 righteous people living on earth. When one dies, another is born. The story emphasizes that they don't know who they are; they just go around and do good deeds. Let me introduce you to a few of the 36 people in my life:

My husband, who married me almost 20 years ago, when I was under a protective order from 10 years of domestic violence by an ex-husband.

My older daughter, whom I gave birth to at 17 and who suffered as she watched her mother beaten, eventually becoming a fine and courageous adult.

My younger daughter, shining through a learning disability and thriving in high school.

My sister, who bears witness to all of it.

Acquaintances who were there for me at an important moment and whom I've never seen again, and friends who are a constant, abiding by the code of honor that friendship requires.

Then there are the strangers. . . .

The couple who drove me home from the Metro in the pouring rain when I had no other means of transportation.

Or the man who started my car in the middle of a busy intersection when my battery died.

And the elderly veteran who gave me a quiet hug as I sobbed in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, tracing the names of my high school classmates.

So, yes, I can easily get to 36 or more in my life, and that brings me full circle.

If it is true that anytime one of the 36 dies, another individual replaces that person, why can't it be true that for every bad deed, a good one overshadows the negative? From now on, I need to honor those on my side and not let the rest bother me so much. I need to bag the done-me-wrong list and come up with something a lot more honorable.

Actually, what I've been telling people these days is that I don't know for sure about the 36 righteous people described in that parable.

I just have finally realized that we all need to act as though we are one of them.

-- Cheryl R. Kravitz, Silver Spring

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