For Comments or Criticisms…
Translated and Adapted by Chaya Sara Ben Shachar
As a teacher of younger kids, I often spend my time coloring in sheets and stencils. Well yesterday, when I was getting ready to color a border of red hearts on a white oak tag I had an epiphany.
The red crayon, where was it? I searched hastily through the box of crayons I'd bought especially for this project. No red. This was a new box of crayons, I thought with frustration. How could the red be missing?
This was so annoying. How could I color the heart in the picture any other color? I turned the box of crayons over. For Comments and Criticism, read the fine print, and there was an address to send letters to. Well, I thought, I was going to criticize. I started composing the letter in my mind.
Dear Company, it would start. I was disappointed to…
But then I stopped. And that’s when I had my epiphany.
This wasn't the first box of crayons I'd purchased from that company. I'd bought many things from them in the past and I had always been happy with the quality of their products. Most people that I knew purchased crayons from that company and they were known to be good. This was the first time that I was encountering any problems with them, so why was I so ready to criticize? Where were all of the thank you letters I should have sent them numerous times in the past?
Comments and criticism. I wonder how much of the consumer mail that companies receive these days is full of positive comments. I'd venture to say almost none. But honestly, if one red crayon is missing, what of the other thirty-five crayons that are there?
I carefully rummaged through the box, picked a violet color for the mouth and figured that my students would thank me for my creativity. But what if they wouldn’t? What if they would criticize? And what about their parents? Would they comment or criticize? How many parents criticize the teachers? How many comment?
And if most parents criticize rather than comment it probably serves me right, for when was the last time that I thanked any of my teachers? Any of my children’s teachers? When was the last time that I thanked…gulp….my parents?
In fact was the last time that I thanked Him? Not just prayer by rote, but a real thank you?
Our sages teach that he who is ungrateful toward his friend's kindness, will eventually show ungratefulness toward God.
It is a Torah obligation for us to acknowledge those who serve us: our cleaning help, our children's teachers, and even big business manufacturers. We owe a thank you to all of our service providers. Thanking these small pawns here on earth gets us into the proper mode for thanking Him. He who is responsible for all good.
As it says, "The world is built through kindness" (Psalms 89:3). He is constantly bestowing us with gifts: functioning organs, the sense of sight, smell, ears to hear with, oxygen to breath. King David reminds us of the intricacies of our body and the thank you that we owe the One who is responsible for it. "Bless the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits" (Psalms 103:2).
The ultimate perfection of Godly service is recognizing all of the kindness He has bestowed upon us from Above. By thanking people down here on earth, we practice thanking Him. But when we forget, when we choose to comment on what's lacking instead of what's there, that's practice too. Practice for complaining to Him about the missing red crayons in our life.
Moshe reprimands the criticism pen bearers. "Is this how you repay the Lord, you disgraceful, unwise people?! Is He not your Father, your Master? He has made you and established you" (Deutoronmy 32:6).
So maybe I should send the crayon company a complimentary letter? For all of the high-quality crayons I've always enjoyed using in the past? And before I do that I'll pick up my siddur to pray, to really pray, for all of the color in my own life.