What does bringing bread to a neighbour, going for a walk, and going to a house of mourning (shiva) all have in common?
Well…last Friday, we noticed our neighbour snow blowing our driveway to clear it of snow (we don’t own a snow blower and do it the manual way, with a shovel). The next day I decided that giving our neighbour’s family a nice homemade loaf of Challah (Jewish braided Sabbath bread) would be a nice way to say “Thank you.” I asked my eleven-year-old son to take the loaf over. He objected. He pleaded. He moaned and groaned. He just couldn’t do this thing.
He didn’t say it like this, but for some reason, this was out of his comfort zone.
That same Saturday, I thought (objectively speaking) that I should take a walk for fresh air, exercise, and Vitamin D. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and it was -20 C (-4 F) with a wind chill factor (which means it feels like) -28 C (-28.4 F).
I didn’t feel like leaving my nice, warm home. It was physically out of my comfort zone.
Recently the mother of a good friend of someone I know died. It is Jewish custom to “sit shiva” for seven days – it is a time when the close family members of the deceased gather together in one of their homes and people come and pay their respects, and pray with them. This person I know felt rather uncomfortable in going (don’t most people feel some degree of discomfort in situations involving death?) and asked me what to bring.
Going to the shiva of her good friend’s mother was the right thing to do, but it was out of my friend’s comfort zone.
So how do we handle situations which are out of our comfort zone?
Be prepared: I don’t know why my son felt that he couldn’t possibly bring this bread to our neighbours. He knows them. They are nice people. And I felt that it was very important that I not give in to his pleading and emphatic declaring that he could not do this thing. I suggested a couple of different things he could say when someone answered the door. I offered to practice with him.
As for the walk that I objectively speaking though I should take, I pulled out the heavy duty winter jacket that is for super-frigid weather, I put on snow-pants, my warmest gloves, and a warm hat. I was prepared.
I told my friend what to bring to the house of shiva (and looked it up on Google, just for confirmation and to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. So handy, that Google). She felt more prepared.
Do it: After I insist that my son leave with the challah, I put on all the above mentioned heavy gear and left for my walk. My son, who had left our home several minutes before me, was still standing at the end of our driveway with the challah. “What are you doing?” I asked him. “Trying to get up my courage,” was the reply. I encouraged him again, and went on my walk, praying for him. When I returned, he had delivered the challah and felt wonderful for having conquered that task. He told me he danced home (he also told me I can share this story).
My walk, prepared as I was with extra warm clothing, was wonderful! In fact, I was so warm at one point that I considered unzipping my jacket. The fresh air and the sunshine were great!
My friend visited the shiva house with the appropriate “what to bring” in hand and had the satisfaction of doing the right thing.
And when all else fails, God doesn’t. Preparation is good. “Just doing it” or “going for it” is necessary. But in and through it all, we look to God. Unexpected things happen, so we can never prepare for everything; life just doesn’t work like that. But God is able to give us whatever we need (words to say, ideas of how to deal with a situation or a person, etc.), when we need it in the moment and not necessarily beforehand.
This is easy to say (or write), but not always easy to do. But that’s no excuse for when we need to get out of our comfort zone.