A bit of homespun wisdom was made famous via a Hollywood film. A fellow says: “My Momma always told me life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The reference, as I understand it, is that when things are covered with chocolate, they all look pretty much the same. You can’t tell if that small chocolate orb contains a peanut, a raisin, or some rum liqueur. Life is full of surprises, and you should expect that.
Then, there’s the famous Whitman’s Sampler which contained an assortment of chocolates but also was the first to contain a map identifying what each item was, so you didn’t bite into something full of coconut when you wanted ganache, or cream when you wanted crunch. The idea then is that the box contains many different types of items and life is like that too. You may end up with one of a myriad of situations that you weren’t expecting. The hope is that you can find the sweetness in it regardless of what you end up with.
As I looked at our counter one day, I had another insight into this adage which I wanted to share with you. When I’m done, I think you’ll understand why.
As I looked at the counter, I saw the tray of chocolates my daughter’s friend had brought when she came for Shabbos. I must admit that at first, it seemed like a small amount, since the store made sure to line the tray with mounded layers of tissue paper and then artfully arrange the candies upon them. However, on Sunday or Monday, when I saw the still half-full tray, I was struck by the fact that we hadn’t gotten through nearly all the chocolate.
Chanuka is a time when people often give gifts, especially dairy ones. One vendor my company works with sent us a huge platter of chocolate last year. Now, had it gone to an office with lots of people, that would have been one thing. However, it came to our home, where each person in our family had approximately twenty-five fancy chocolates earmarked for them.
Though delicious, there’s a limit to how much of the stuff you can eat. Though I was initially excited not to have to share with others, this bounty of sweets ended up becoming more of a burden than anything else. As the days passed, we either ate a piece or realized we were too sick of it to eat more, and we began to wonder just how long chocolate remained good for. Eventually, broken-hearted, I had to admit that it was time to toss it, so I did.
Now, as I looked at the unfinished tray of chocolate this young woman brought to our home, I realized the futility of desiring more and more treats. Sure, I can eat a piece or two, but ultimately, I’m going to be left with more than I need, and it’s going to go to waste. The real treat would be to share it with others, allowing them to enjoy the goodness as well, recognizing that I don’t need it all for myself.
People who amass great wealth, or even a little wealth, often have enough to share. I didn’t say spare, because certainly you can find ways to use your money. However, you should be able to realize when you have enough for yourself and should let others enjoy the benefits. Those who keep working to build up their fortune and then spend it on themselves are missing the point. Hashem gave you money to spread around. And when you don’t, your enjoyment suffers too.
But it doesn’t have to be just money. When waiting in line, be it at a store, on the road, or looking for a parking spot, sometimes people are ruthless in protecting their right to be first. How about letting someone else in, instead of blocking the side road? How about not insisting that you were first, as if the other person doesn’t also have things to do? Imagine how the other person might feel to be recognized and given some deference.
When there’s an opportunity for someone to get praise at work, have you ever stepped back and pushed your co-worker forward, so they could get some time in the spotlight? Do you always need people to know what you’ve done, or can you happily allow others their chance to shine?
The people who can do these things are the ones who understand that life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get, but you also know that it’s best enjoyed when shared with others, allowing them to enjoy the sweetness too. Otherwise, at the end of the day you’ll end up wishing you had gotten rid of things sooner, as now, sadly, they have gone to waste.
So, take it from me. Life is a gift that is best shared. When you enjoy it with others, everyone has a better time and you’ll find it incredibly sweet.
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