If you could have seen me Wednesday morning, September 28th, you would have found me with clothing and luggage sprawled all over my room. My family and I were trying to head to New York City in good time before Rosh Hashana would begin. We would be having our Hineni High Holiday prayer services in the Essex House together with Jews from every part of the world. Rosh Hashana would go straight into Shabbos so we had to pack ourselves up for the next three days. That may not sound like a lot but when you are a family trying to get out on time, tensions rise and nerves are frayed. I was trying to remember everything we would need.
“Everyone collect your luggage into my room!” I called out. “I am running downstairs to put together some stuff in the kitchen. Then please take all the suit bags and hanging things along with all the suitcases to the car. We need to leave in 15 minutes.”
I heard footsteps rushing back and forth on the floor above me.
Great, I thought. They’re listening.
Then I heard the bumping sound of luggage being dragged down the steps.
“Wow, we might really make this with time to spare!”
The car was loaded with all our gear. We piled in and made our way to the city. Traffic was heavy but we finally pulled up to the hotel. I ran out of the car to wait at the reception desk and check us all in while my husband settled the car. The bellhop sped ahead with the luggage.
Finally I was able to take a breath. Not bad, I thought. I even have a little time before Rosh Hashana begins to contemplate and put my thoughts in order. The time flew by and there were just 40 minutes left till candle lighting. My children began getting ready. You could hear the noisy blow dryers as doors slammed open and shut.
I looked around the room and tried to see where my luggage was put. I didn’t find it anywhere. I looked under the beds, in the closet, in the bathroom. Nowhere.
I stepped out into the hall. Could it have been left there? Nope, nothing there.
I ran into my children’s room and turned everything upside down. Still no luggage.
My heart began beating hard. I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. I ran back to my room.
“Okay everyone!” I called out. “I don’t see my suitcase anywhere. Does anyone know where my luggage is?”
My family began searching the room, looking under the beds, behind the curtains, in the closet. They came up with nothing, just as I had. Uh oh. This doesn't look good.
“What color was your suitcase?”
“Were your hanging things in it too, Mommy?”
I took a breath. "Does anyone remember bringing a blue suitcase into the hotel?" All I got were blank stares.
“Does anyone remember loading my blue luggage into the car?”
“Well, I took the suit bags and hat boxes.”
“And I had to take the heavy suitcase that no one wanted to shlep.”
Everyone began to tell me what they did take – everything except my luggage.
I began to feel angry. Why does everyone remember their stuff and my stuff gets left behind? What am I going to do for the next three days? This isn’t right!
It’s about time that I take responsibility and not blame others if there’s a mess-up.
And then a thought popped into my head that totally changed my perspective. Not for just that moment, but the way I have seen things ever since.
It’s about time that I take responsibility and not blame others if there’s a mess-up, I thought to myself. Yes, I asked everyone to take my luggage and it would’ve been perfect if they did. But the bottom line is: it’s my luggage! I was supposed to check and make sure my suitcase made it to the car. I am accountable for my things. The buck stops here.
Sure, it’s great to have people help me but bottom line is it’s up to me to be sure that my suitcase makes it out the door. I have no one else to blame but myself.
My family looked at me, wondering what I would say. I could see that they felt terrible.
“Listen,” I said. “It’s my luggage! This is no one’s fault. I don’t blame anyone. It would’ve been nice if someone had put it in the car but it was really my job to be sure that it was there. And besides, it’s now 15 minutes before Rosh Hashana. How can I fail my first test of the year?”
P.S. If you are wondering what I did for the next three days, here’s the epilogue:
My husband suggested that I call a friend who lives down the block and ask her to find my luggage in our home and send it to me via taxi. At first I resisted. How could I trouble someone with all this 15 minutes before candle lighting? But my husband encouraged me, very strongly, to make the call. And my dear friend who I know wishes to remain anonymous began her year with a great mitzvah.