People often wonder why a simple, routine request on their
parts meets up with a reaction that is 'way beyond
proportion; it is bitter and sour. The person approached may
burst out with a vehemence totally uncalled for...
The answer, according to R. Chadshai, is a long term
investment or input in the small things that build up a
relationship and which allow for occasional `withdrawal from
Big Dividends for Small Change
There is no receiving without giving. Good results can only
be produced by input that is not necessarily cultivated for
the sake of immediate gain but for the sake of creating a
positive balance, of filling up the reserves and keeping in
the black regarding emotions and good will.
One woman tells: "My family doctor incidentally told me that
she was looking for a small apartment to rent in one of the
new neighborhoods in order to open up a clinic. I just
`happened' to have a niece who had bought an apartment there
but was not interested in moving in; she was looking for a
tenant. I made the connection as an act of good will. What
shall I say? Ever since, the doctor has gone out of her way
to cut medical bureaucratic red tape for me in a measure far
beyond the small favor I did for her..."
An investment can be a small additional degree of concern and
attention, a gesture of caring, even listening, an
insignificant act of giving -- whose worth surpasses gold.
"On my way to work I pass by a stationery store. I happened
to notice a little sponge that one puts on a pencil to reduce
the pressure on one's fingers. A little thing costing mere
pennies but a convenient device for whoever needs it. I
bought it for my eight-year-old son and was amazed at his
joy, which was completely out of proportion to the `gift'
itself. I felt I had made his day. He showed it to all his
friends and I experienced his heartfelt gratitude in many
Children remember small gestures, little acts of attention,
kind words, even if parents are not aware they produced them.
A child will remember an icicle his parents bought him on
some outing many months before and bask in their generosity
and consideration. He may be more grateful for this
inconsequential act than for a piece of new furniture they
bought for his room...
There are some investments that don't even cost a cent and
are priceless, nonetheless. A hug from father to son when he
hears about a thoughtful act he did for a friend, or how he
gave in to a sibling, or when he tells a chiddush that
struck him. The wonderful feeling this generates can
accompany a person to his old age! He will not forget a
spontaneous compliment, and the warm words will ring and sing
in his mind for decades to come!
This `small change' which produces such a mighty impact can
be long ranging and far reaching; it cannot be properly
gauged. There is a well known story about a baal
tshuva who finally made it to a regular yeshiva but was
not accorded any personal attention from his peers. Feeling
himself a non-entity, he contemplated the thought of leaving
the yeshiva -- and his newfound way of life -- altogether. At
the very last moment, however, a passing yeshiva student
stopped to straighten out his collar, which was askew. The
baal tshuva was so moved by the gesture, a routine
act, that he decided to give yeshiva life another try and to
stick it out. As we have said, some acts, some investments
cannot be measured by their face value, but by the emotional
impact they leave, and the blessed results are 'way beyond
Trust -- An Investment That Pays Off
Expressing trust -- aside from the spectrum of advantages it
carries, also has far reaching consequences. Lack of trust
leads to suspicion, mistrust, which can make life
* To what age will we have to monitor him with regards to
prayers? In two years, he'll be bar-mitzva, and he still
thinks he's doing us a favor by going to shul to
* Whenever I give her money, it has to be an exact sum, else
she'll find some excuse or another to explain what she did
with the rest of the change.
* We always make up a time by when she must be back home, but
it doesn't seem to make a difference. She has a problem with
this. She complains why the mothers of her friends never
establish a curfew for them and many don't even bother asking
where their daughters are going...
* How can I know if he took a sweater or not? He leaves the
house before I get up and when he calls home, I get the
feeling that he's hiding the truth...
* How can you send a girl out shopping for a pair of Shabbos
shoes, all on her own? First of all, how do I know where
she'll end up? And second, I'm afraid to trust her taste. She
might pick out something vulgar, in poor taste... Trust and
mistrust operate according to the rule of "Like faces are
reflected in water, so do hearts reflect one another." The
power of cultivation in the area of trust proves itself many
times over. Trust generates in the target-person the desire
to live up to expectations, not to disappoint, even if he
feels the trust is not completely justified. One strives to
vindicate the impression. When a mother relies on her child
honestly that she will come home on time/ that she will
return with the right change/ that she will choose suitable
shoes and so on, this evokes the desire in the child to prove
her right, to show that the trust was rightly placed.
When truth is the guiding light of a family, parents can
trust their children to answer questions honestly even when
the truth is not so pleasant, like, "True, I didn't daven
maariv in a minyan tonight," or "I admit that I
forgot to take a coat today." Even if parents cannot check
out every statement for its veracity, it is clear that
children will not maintain their obstinacy for long but will
soon come 'round and try to become worthy of their parents'
trust in them. Trust is not only expressed in expectations,
but also in keeping obligations and carrying out promises, a
necessary corollary of truthfulness. Our keeping promises,
not only towards adults but also to children, does not only
entail doing so when we are nagged morning and evening, but
even when the latter has forgotten our promise -- but we
Aside from the clear halachic duty, it is difficult to
describe the powerful effect generated and the example set by
our keeping promises and carrying out obligations and
responsibilities. Very often, the effort is altogether
incommensurate to the results or reward.
The Ability to Listen
One of the most marvelous investments in interpersonal
relations consists, interestingly, of a most passive role:
listening. In our stressful times, people are too impatient
to listen. They think they understood the other person even
before he finished talking and will interrupt their flow with
an urgent rejoinder of their own. Sometimes they must pay a
heavy price for this, by having to hear the whole
megilla all over again from beginning, only because
the other person thought he was misunderstood.
Sometimes an argument will erupt on a bus, in the bank, a
supermarket and even on the street. The person on the
defensive will refuse to listen, or will choose to argue his
point with an innocent bystander, who is willing to hear him
out. The man who listens has no idea how the arguer values
his attentive ear. The service he is rendering is far dearer
than he can imagine, and in no proportion to his
The act of listening signifies to the other person that we
are his true friend, and he is prepared to show his gratitude
in a big way.
One common mistake is that people think that listening also
entails solution finding. Listening, in of itself, is a
tremendous service, even if the listener is in no position to
help or suggest some way out. In fact, often as not, by using
the listener as a sounding board and clarifying the problem,
the speaker will find his own solution. At worst, the
outpouring will have served as a catharsis. And he will have
adopted the other person as his sworn friend.
The ability to listen properly, within the context of the
home or in any other social setting or situation, is not only
a overt act of kindness, not only a tool in understanding the
next person, but also, incidentally, a wonderful investment
in a positive balance in relationships, which will allow for
a withdrawal when and if the situation arises.
Nevertheless - It is Still Better Not to Cash
In On Your Credit
We could continue to enumerate many more non-monetary
investments geared to maintain a positive balance, but space
prohibits and we will hope that the principle has been made
clear. You can continue on with your own personal list.
It is important to note here that in spite of all input, it
is not advisable to become `overdrawn' in your relationship
account. Always leave a healthy reserve to fall back on in
times of need, when you have no other resort. This is not a
bank account where a person invests towards a definite goal
which he will collect, principle and interest, upon maturity.
It is more like investing in an insurance policy, which
people hope they will not have to collect...
It is true that a good mother-in-law who creates a positive
balance in the heart of her daughter-in-law, can make
allowances for a faux pas, can let slip a word that can be
misconstrued, and it won't be the end of the world. She can
also make an irregular request and expect her daughter-in-
law to fulfill it graciously. But in any case, it is always
wise to apologize, to explain, and thus sweeten the bitter
It is true that a principal who knows how to keep a warm and
human relationship with her staff of workers can expect, in
times of emergency, that a teacher will go beyond the call of
duty. Nevertheless, she would be wise to couple her request
with an honest apology and a show of appreciation, and not
take the favor for granted.
All kinds of situations can arise, unforeseen shortcomings,
mishaps, irregular behavior, outbursts, misunderstandings,
incidents due to bad moods, stress, extenuating
circumstances. If a person had cultivated a relationship
previously with positive input - not for the sake of
withdrawal but for the human value in the kind acts etc. -
s/he would find it much easier to deal with it from the
negative side, to forgive or be forgiven. Relationships are
not there to be taken advantage of. Like with children; we
must seek to give, and give, and hope never to need to draw,
to have to take from children, despite our tremendous input
over the many years...