Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Throw In A Load

Shabbat #4: Back at the humble abode.

Guests: Jeff, Stephanie and their son E. Jeff and Stephanie are a "bit" older than us. Over the last two decades we have often looked to them for advice on navigating the marital waters. Jeff made me my first gimlet and Stephanie bakes a mean brownie.

Menu: Matzo Ball Soup, The Very Best Brisket and Vegetables, Toby's Whole Wheat Challah, Raspberry Crisp

What I Learned:

One of the best things about having kids is sharing them. E. is 14 years old and my kids are 2 and 5. Whenever we are all together Jeff and Stephanie get to relive the past and Steve and I get a glimpse into the future. Steve talks football with E. Jeff tosses a ball with Ben. Stephanie reads to Sarah. And I try to convince E. that answering an endless stream of questions from a 5 year old while dressing a 2 year old in a Snow White costume complete with tiara and slippers really is more fun than hanging out with friends. E is a trooper.

He's also pretty special to us.

Aside from defending our "peace disturbing" German Shepard in municipal court, Steve's first act as a licensed attorney was helping Jeff and Stephanie adopt E. (E. knows so I am not letting the cat out of the bag here.) I remember when Jeff asked Steve for help. Without a bit of hesitation Steve obliged. Way back then when Steve agreed he was not a father. Far from it. As a result, he had no way of knowing how significant it would end up being for Steve to help Jeff adopt his only child - a healthy, strapping son no less. Not just for Jeff and Stephanie who became parents, but also for Steve who likely counts that deed as the single best use of his law license. Maybe even the single greatest deed for a friend period. I know I do.

Fourteen years ago I was a little thrown by Steve's hasty offer to help. What do you know about an adoption? Are you sure you can do this? What if you screw it up? Steve didn't think much about those things. He was too focused on helping a friend. As I think back on that moment 14 years ago, I am now not the least bit surprised.

For better or worse, Steve is the kind of guy who can't say no. Especially to a friend. He is loyal. Sometimes to a fault. For the most part, this works out pretty well for Steve and his friends. But every once in a while he is blinded by this loyalty. Whether it is his failure to have the foresight to appreciate the consequences of his decisions or his lack of fortitude to disappoint a friend, sometimes the results are grim. Most recently they were downright catastrophic.

A few winters ago I was getting dressed in the gym locker room. It was one of those bitter January days. I had no socks and cursed myself (out loud of course) for forgetting.

"Take these."

Dangling from the hand of a girl I'd never seen was a new pair of socks. Complete with the little plastic hook that you tell yourself you should cut off with scissors but bite off every time instead.

"Really?" Are you sure?"

"No problem. It all comes out in the wash anyway."

Pulling on the socks, I thought about that phrase: It all comes out in the wash anyway. What did she mean? (I'm an attorney so I can be pretty literal.) Was she expecting me to return them washed? Did her washer worked differently than mine, producing socks on the spin cycle rather than sucking them into the washer abyss? This sock-a-pade stuck with me for years.

Turns out she knew something I didn't fully appreciate back then.

We all make bad decisions. And, regardless of our intentions, sometimes we end up hurting other people. Fortunately, for most of us the consequences aren't played out on the 5 o'clock news.

I think the message from the sock-a-pade was this: if we concentrate on doing more good than harm, we'll come out even (or better) in the end. Give a pair of socks here, get a pair later.

Steve's still got a lot of wash to do. But don't we all. Fortunately (especially for my husband's sake) I'm of the mindset that good deeds are bankable. When I look at Jeff, Stephanie and E. together, I am proud of the role Steve played - however small. In a year filled with struggle and doubt, reflections on the good in my life provides some solace. E. is the personification of that good. At least to me.

Jeff and Stephanie - thanks for sharing.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, that is what life is really all about. Your thoughts and efforts are appreciated. Dinner was great. We love you guys!
    Jeff, Steph, Everett aka E