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Changing the formula

ילד שוטף כלים

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

"From where does a negative attitude along with feelings of emptiness and boredom come?" asks Michal Shneur, a family guidance counselor.

"We give our children everything," she continues. "We try to be attentive to everything they lack: clothes according to the season and the latest style, sweet treats that they desperately need, money, Bar Mitzvah parties, participation in the latest craze, whatever they want.

But the formula we have inside our heads is flawed. According to this formula, if we give to them, they will be happy. And if we refuse to give, they will be sad. But they belong to a generation that receives more than any other in history, yet where is the happiness?

The answer is that whoever has the status of a receiver alone cannot be happy; on the contrary, it's a recipe for unhappiness.  I become a happier person when I discover that life is not about what I need but what I am needed for, and then ask: 'What can I contribute, what can I give?'

A simple statement to a child such as 'Thank you for looking after your siblings and allowing me to rest, what would I do without you?' is the greatest gift that child could receive. 'Thank you for washing the dishes, see how much nicer everything looks because of your efforts' is an acknowledgement that fills the dishwasher's heart with contentment and real joy.

This is actually the story of Yosef HaTzadik in Vayigash: He climbs out of the pit and achieves royal status since he does not expect anything from others but rather focuses on what he can give to them. He lives with a constant awareness of his mission and what he must do to fulfill it. In this context, the thought that we are needed by others can fill us with strength, joy, and a sense of meaning even in an Egyptian prison.

Look around you and try to change the formula. Not only with the kids, but also at work and in every other area of life."


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