Today was a strange day.
Within the space of an hour, I escaped being hit by a car (which plowed into another just a few feet from where I was sitting in a diner, eating lunch; no one was hurt, miraculously), and learned that I had been screwed mightily, pardon the language (but I can think of no other, better word) by my insurance company, who went out of business yesterday without prior notice and was apparently lying when they swore just last week, after scores of phone calls, that overdue payments of thousands of dollars to my doctor for last year's surgery would be in the mail any day now.
I'm both ecstatic to be alive and so angry I could scream (and have). I looked at tonight's Omer count for day 21, Malhut of Tiferet, Nobility in Compassion, and wondered how in the world this concept related to my extraordinarily luck and simultaneous misery:
Examine the dignity of your compassion... For compassion to be complete, it should boost self-esteem and cultivate human dignity--both your own dignity and the dignity of the one benefiting from your compassion... Exercise for the day: Rather than just giving charity, help the needy help themselves in a fashion that strengthens their dignity.
I think about this concept often, in fact--it's impossible to avoid in New York, where homeless people live on every street corner and subway car. I try, without complete success, to give what I can, and look each man and woman in the eye. After I lost my job five years ago I volunteered, for reasons as self-serving as they were charitable, at my synagogue's soup kitchen. Whatever my motives, I'm embarrassed to say that I learned what I had never before taken completely to heart: those in need deserve as much respect as the rest of us.
Today my dignity was stolen by a sleazy company presumably in the very business of compassion. I can comfort myself by remembering that tables do turn and justice usually prevails, if slowly. I can sear in my brain for future, corrective use the feeling of being treated like garbage. Above all, I can remember that I wasn't hit by a car this afternoon, and still have a voice with which to complain and sing in joy at being alive.