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Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes

This Thanksgiving, open your eyes.


I was delighted when my husband bought a beautiful name plaque for our front door... until I noticed the door. Years of fingerprints, remnants of gummy tape, stickers, and I don't even want to think about what else, had etched themselves onto the once-white door. A quick glance from beautiful nameplate to horrifying door brought me to the only possible conclusion: clean the door.

So two hours later, the door was sparkling white and the nameplate was handsomely ensconced in its center. When my kids got up in the morning and saw the complete metamorphosis of the front door, they were -- of course -- awed.

"Look Daddy!" they told my husband. "They cleaned the door."

My husband told me of their reaction with some amusement. (I was still sleeping, exhausted after the strenuous effort of the night before!)

"They cleaned the door?" I practically yelled. "They is me! I cleaned the door!"

"They cleaned the door?" I practically yelled. "They is me! I cleaned the door! What do they think? Magic fairies come while we all sleep and clean the furniture, put away the toys, bake cookies..."

But it's true. In a child's world many concepts are rather vague, and the exact mechanism of tasks such as house-cleaning is one of them. So in the grand scheme of door-cleaning, I remain an unsung hero. At least until I gently break it to my children that it was I, armed with two Scotch pads and untold amounts of cleaning agent, who did the trick.

But it awakens in me a realization that my children are not the only ones who are a bit fuzzy on who's really behind task-completion. My husband still remembers as a child coming downstairs right before Passover and finding it "magically" transformed with the oven and fridge smothered in foil and special counter tops in place. He always thought the little gnomes had been busy the night before. Never did it occur to him that there was a person behind all that work -- a mother, in fact!

On second thought, there may be many more unsung heroes that I am usually unaware of:

"They painted the park bench." "They re-stocked the grocery shelves." "They fixed the elevator."

Behind every "they" is an "I" -- a human being, often anonymous, who expended certain effort to do something in my world. "They" may be a woman, a man or even a child. "They" may have been disgruntled and discontent while performing their job, or happy and fulfilled. "They" may have delighted in bringing me whatever joy I derived from the end-product they produced, whether it is a sweater, an apple, or a magazine.

It is truly awe-inspiring to hold any household object in the palm of one's hand and contemplate the many people it took to produce the item in all of its stages. Even the simplest toothpick began as a tree -- probably planted by someone -- and needed to be cut down, transported, shredded into tiny pieces. The plastic case which houses it is a story unto itself. First someone needed to produce the plastic, then a mold for the container had to be made, and on and on it goes.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I realize just how thankless I have been simply because my eyes have been decidedly out of focus.

My reaction to being relegated to a "they" underscores the problem with unsung heroes; they never get a proper thank you. In a world of unknown do-gooders, there is no need -- in fact, no real opportunity -- to express appreciation. And all that thanklessness adds up to a sorry state where gratitude is a forgotten courtesy. That lack of appreciation perpetrated by the invisible "they" is far more debilitating than I ever imagined... until I experienced it myself.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I realize just how thankless I have been simply because my eyes have been decidedly out of focus.

"They" are constantly busy, millions of "them," ensuring that I have all the things I need; from electricity in my oven to nail clippers. But even when I open my eyes to the multitude of "theys" who work magic in my life, I really am just scratching the surface.

It's like reducing a table into molecules, then atoms, then electrons, then quarks, and into its truest, purest essence; because every "they" is ultimately a watered-down version of "He."

"He" is the highest step on the Anonymous Benefactor ladder -- "He" is God. He is not a laborer in China, picking rice that will eventually find its way to my table. Instead, He is making sure that the climate is right, that the rainfall is adequate, and that the rice seedlings grow into a delicious, nutritious food. He is Creator of the paddy; He manufactured and keeps the farmer's heart beating and gives him energy to perform his daily tasks. He is behind the scenes, but ever so prominent on the stage; the ultimate Director.

And I, like my children, am often clueless -- most definitely thankless.

"I found an extra fifty in my wallet today... don't know how that happened." "The weather is just perfect for our outing." Or even better. "Yes, all the kids are feeling great!"

It's like attributing the Mona Lisa to a nameless painter. Like believing that the Tooth Fairy left the quarter under the pillow. Like thinking that little green gnomes came in the dead of night, waved a magic wand, and cleaned our front door.

There's a God behind every "they" and every "I." There's a God behind everything in the entire universe. And when we finally find Him, our lives become transformed.

November 17, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 12

(10) Sherry C., November 30, 2007 8:30 AM

My Unsung Hero

This article reminded me of my father. He designed machines for the forming of such things as the plastic soda bottles. He also designed velcro long before it was on the market. He never got the credit and didn't patent it. Lesson learned there! But I realized that God is an unsung hero of mine when I don't thank Him for the smallest of blessings. May it never be again!

(9) shani, November 28, 2007 10:32 AM

Nice job RevaM! You always know how to put it in perspective! I miss you!

(8) penny, November 22, 2007 4:38 PM

THANK-YOU for reminding me that, me myself and i are not the only people here doing all of it.wonderful article

(7) Denise Rootenberg, November 21, 2007 9:13 PM

I am tired ot being a "they"

For many years now, I have volunteered to work during the Xmas break so my non-Jewish colleagues can take the whole week off. I don't do it for acknowledgement but at the same time I have realised that no one thanks me, they just take it for granted. This year I am teaching them some gratitude attitude by not volunteering immediately.

Anonymous, November 7, 2012 6:24 PM

God knows...that's huge!!

Some times people don't express what they feel, and sometimes they just don't know how to.

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