Rochel Burstyn
By Rochel Burstyn Jackie Headapohl | Detroit Jewish News

One annoying thing about being a writer is that when you’re in the middle of experiencing something, there’s always going to be people saying to you “Well, now you’ll have something new to write about!”

Even more annoying: They’re right! I recently had a painful surgery (all better now though, yay!) and decided to share Three Things I Learned:

  1. Every single phone call, card, text, email and message is SO appreciated. The emotional balm of being remembered and cared for is so reassuring and conducive to healing — and likewise, the emotional pain of feeling that no one cares can actually make physical pain worse. Actual visits are the best though; knowing someone took time out from their busy day just to sit and talk to me was so touching. There’s a Jewish thought that says that bikkur cholim (visiting the sick) actually takes away 1/60th of the sick person’s illness. I believe it. The difference after a good visit on a bad day was huge.
  2. “Let me know what I can do for you” is a bit of a tricky tightrope. Of course, people mean it; they’re happy to help. But what if all you’re hankering for is a back massage? That’s what happened to me. My back hurt so much, I was desperate and begging everyone, anyone to please, pleaaaaase massage my back. (I got some funny looks from the UPS guy!) My mother-in-law, angel that she is, did it often, not even getting annoyed with my “Up, down, left, right there, no, wait, up again, no wait down, up, right …” directions like everyone else did.

The other thing I was secretly longing for? Pancakes — the ultimate comfort food! I felt like such a spoiled brat even thinking about it while I was getting all kinds of gourmet dinners delivered to my door every afternoon. But I shared my secret craving with my sister who let people know, and boom — my lovely aunt had a batch at my door with a jar of maple syrup. The next week it was my awesome friend Bluma.

The takeaway? Think outside the box! It can be super awkward for someone in a vulnerable position to share what they really, really want, worrying they might be taking advantage of people. (Takeaway message No. 2: Don’t tell my sister your secret craving or she might put it on Facebook!)

  1. What goes around doesn’t always come around in the way we expect or hope. So many people gave to my family and me — carpool rides, babysitting, meals, visits, errands, pancakes, etc. How do I repay them all? The truth: I can’t. Sure, I could make them dinner when I’m back up and running; but if they don’t need it, what’s the point? Instead, when I next hear about folks going through a challenging time, it’s my turn to step up to the plate, whether I’m friends with them or not, passing on the chessed (kindness), helping them out. And once they’ve recovered, I don’t need payment or thank-you cards either. They just need to pass it on and, in that way, our community is constantly rippling with the giving and taking of goodness and kindness, with everyone helping each other out when its needed, paying it forward and making our community a better, happier and warmer place for everyone.