Women wear many hats. We may be cooks, nurses, teachers, managers, mediators – and that doesn’t even begin to cover the work we do outside the home!

Along with all those hats, there seems to be one job that no one else in my family (and as my recent experience shows, in the larger world) seems to be able to handle. It’s not a difficult job or complicated or time consuming. It doesn’t require special skills or knowledge or dexterity. And yet, no one else in my family seems to have mastered the ability to change the rolls of toilet paper! I don’t believe that it “just happens” that every time I enter the restroom the roll is on empty. But no one else seems to be bothered…

I was going to let the matter rest. I wasn’t sure if it was blog-worthy (I took a gamble with my editor) but then I had two recent experiences that made me think twice. I taught a class at a local kosher eatery and found myself in the position of replacing the empty toilet paper roll in their rest room. Then I taught a class at a friend’s house and once again…although I was unwilling to go through her cabinets and actually, much to my chagrin, left it unchanged…

Is there something about me that says “toilet paper roll changer”? Obviously not. But there may be something about me that says, “No need to worry; I’ll take care of that for you.” Am I teaching my children a good lesson or bad? On the one hand, they perhaps should take more responsibility. On the other hand, it’s not rocket science and certainly when they have their own homes, they will be able to do what’s necessary. On the one hand, it’s actually a kindness to the next person and, as such, everyone in the family should want to participate. On the other hand, why do I want someone to take this opportunity from me?

I can choose to resent the fact that this job seems to always be left up to me. And sometimes I do make this choice. Or I can tell myself that just like making dinner and cleaning the house and taking sick children to the doctor are part of my responsibilities, this is as well. And even more. We get noticed in the Heavenly account books for all of our acts of kindness. Not so down here in this world. Here, the more public acts get all the recognition. Or the bigger acts. If we’re lucky, our family says thank you for dinner or for buying them clothes or looking after them in other ways. No one says, “Thank you so much for changing the toilet paper roll. I really appreciate it.” And so, as silly as it may sound, this is actually a bigger kindness. Because there is no overt reward. There is no public or even private appreciation. And yet it is nevertheless a kindness to all members of the family (and all diners at the above mentioned restaurant).

We are taught that the Jewish people are a nation whose has the identifying character trait of being kind. This is manifest in all of ways in which we give to others – if we’re making a family celebration, we can borrow chairs or tables or tablecloths or centerpieces or gowns. If someone just gave birth, we make meals and shop for groceries or diapers. If someone is sitting shiva, there’s an organization that brings over chairs and prayer books while others cook dinner. The list goes on and on. Because there is so much kindness we may forget the little things – the smiles, the friendly greetings, a birthday wish, a call or email to check in. And even the changing of the toilet paper roll…