Mar 28, 2017

We Do Have Choices

In a talk, Rivka Malka Perlman told about a young man whom her brother (Benzion Klatzko) is trying to be mekarev.

The person is tough and bitter and her brother asked him what's your story?

He said, when I was younger I was okay, but then my mother got sick and passed away. I was very lonely and having a very hard time in school, and I ended up connecting with not the greatest kids.
One day, the boys threw a rock at someone's car and the alarm went off. The owner came out screaming but the other boys ran off and I was blamed for it. The man said I'm calling your father and the police. The police came and took a report. My father came and took me home and was very disappointed with me.

I was punished and I didn't know what to think. I had gone from being an average person to a horrible person. I left school and did horrible things.

One day he was at a pizza shop and a nice man came over and spoke to him. He began casually meeting him, and he gradually spent more time with the man and began to trust him. The man recommended a summer camp for him. He was excited to go and the man said he would take care of the money and speak to the boy's father.

He hadn't been in a Jewish environment for so long but this seemed like a chance to start over.
His father gave permission and camp was a fresh start and he was reminded that he's actually a nice guy, and he started to have fun again and to heal from his mother's passing.

He came back from camp a new person.

The guys back home saw that he was different. They invited him to a barbecue and he was nervous about attending because he hadn't had friends back home in a long time. He decided to give it a try. He wanted to be the kid he was in camp, but it was hard to do that at home.

The barbecue was wonderful and he felt so grateful that the good times could last. He went inside to the kitchen for more drinks and saw, to his dismay, that the host was the owner of the car that had been hit by a rock. The man yelled, I remember you, I don't forget kids like you, you think you can come to my house and be part of a barbecue here, what are you doing on my property? Get out of here, you don't belong here!

"That was the end for me. I joined a gang and that's me today."

I heard this story and thought, it is so important to teach children about free choice, that Hashem makes things happen to us, but we get to choose how to respond. We are not compelled to react one way or another.

Losing his mother and feeling lonely, made him friendly with fringe kids. Being yelled at, apparently wrongly, made him decide he's bad. Going to camp and having a good experience, made him feel he's good. Being yelled at again, made him feel turned off from everything and everyone. He behaved like a marionette - when his "strings were pulled," he moved in that direction.

One can imagine someone else in similar circumstances responding differently. It's not like this young man had to respond as he did, though he may have felt that there was no other way. It is this that I think we must convey, that we do have choices in our responses, that the way we respond is not a given.

As I read in a book about happiness long ago about a former prisoner of the Soviet gulag who spent 12 yrs. in concentration camps, starved, beaten, humiliated, who lost two fingers to frostbite who said, "Victim! I am not a victim! I survived!"

Many people can’t do this. They carry their hurt forever. They begin to define themselves as their pain.

Life hurts but you can’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in this hurt, constantly reliving it, fearing the future and grieving the past. That’s victimization.

Other people can hurt you but only you can victimize yourself.

1 comment:

  1. The host who threw him out sounds like an evil monster but maybe it was Hashem's way of testing this boy. Unfortunately he didn't pass the test.