Years ago, when we were living in Phoenix, Arizona my husband and I decided to take a month long vacation, an unofficial pilot trip, to Israel. At that time we had four children, aged one, three, five, and seven. We had ten suitcases and numerous carry-on pieces. There was no way we could all fit into one car so my in-laws graciously helped drive us to the airport. I went in their car with them, the children and half of the luggage. My husband followed with the tickets and the rest of the bags. My in-laws’ car arrived at the airport well ahead of the flight. My husband’s did not. We waited and waited and could not check in without him, the tickets and the rest of the baggage.
Where was he? He had run out of gas.
This was Sunday morning in Phoenix and few gas stations were open. Finally a police car drove by, the policeman helped him out, and he arrived at the airport a short time before the flight. Since we were so late checking in the boarding passes we received were all over the plane. That did not damper our enthusiasm. We checked our luggage and made our way to the gate with the intention of rearranging our boarding passes once we got there. However, the gate was packed and we realized that the airlines had overbooked the flight. Not everyone was getting a boarding pass. At that point we quickly kissed my in-laws, grabbed our kids and hand luggage, and ran onto the plane happy to have seats anywhere.
Our fond thought was that once on board we would be able to swap seats with other passengers and sit together. However, since the flight was overbooked no one was willing to leave their seat for fear it would be given to someone else. So we sat all over the plane. The three-year-old was next to a nice lady in the back. The five-year-old was in the middle and the seven-year-old was towards the front. Since he did not have a seat the baby stayed with me. My husband ran back and forth checking on each kid until he had to sit down and buckle up. All this happened because he had run out of gas. Why didn’t I go ballistic on him?
Believe me, it was not because I am such a tolerant understanding person. Nor was it because my father-in-law had already said everything I could have possibly thought of to say. No, the reason I stayed calm was simple. Several months earlier I had been driving MY car full of my children and their friends and I ran out of gas.
Running out of gas is a rather major event that is hard to forget. In the normal course of life, though, I do many things that can irritate others. I can forget important matters, say thoughtless things, and misinterpret actions. When I do these things I expect others to be understanding that I did not mean to hurt them. When someone does the same to me, however, I usually have forgotten that I had done the same to someone else. Therefore I am not as silent as I was when my husband ran out of gas.
Fortunately, we have a beautiful commandment to judge others favorably. It has been my privilege to receive the book, The Other Side of the Story by Yehudis Samet and published by Artscroll Press. Although lightly written it is a deep subject and Rebbetzin Samet presents it well. She shows with many, many examples how we really can give others the benefit of the doubt. In doing so, not only are we following the Torah; we are also becoming happier people. As happier people we can restrain ourselves more often from speaking lashon hara, evil speech. Speaking less lashon hara leads to less dissension. With less dissension perhaps we can really make a difference and HaShem will build the Third Holy Temple. May we see it speedily in our times.