I would like to dedicate this article in honor of my hot water tank that just left this world. After many years of quietly doing its job, it finally spoke up. As the repairman hauled it upstairs past the kitchen, it began to say its last (and first) words:
For eighteen years, I did my job proficiently. I consistently provided you and your family with hot water and hot showers. What would Erev Shabbos have been without my efforts? How would your dishes have gotten clean after Shabbos? Yet, you took all my hard work for granted. You barely ever came down to visit me, unless, of course, you weren’t happy with the job I was doing. Then, I merited some attention. I must say that it hasn’t been the easiest eighteen years in your basement. It was lonely. I never really felt appreciated. But I never really did it for the recognition. I was generally satisfied knowing that I was helping you and your family. However, as I depart, I will ask for one thing: Please treat my replacement with more appreciation and respect.
I think that all of us feel like my hot water tank sometimes. We keep on working hard for others while our efforts are barely acknowledged. Only when we make a mistake or underperform are we noticed. It may be at home, it may be at work, it may be at both. But perhaps more importantly, how many people in our lives feel this way? Just as we would want to be appreciated for our efforts, we need to make sure that we show our appreciation to others, especially those closest to us.
Many times, we do not express our appreciation, because we don’t feel appreciated ourselves. For example, a husband does not express his gratitude for his wife’s contributions because he feels unappreciated by her. He thinks, “Why should I show her my appreciation when she does not show me any appreciation for what I do?” Or vice versa.
This, of course, defies logic. If I know that it is the right thing to do and would want this myself, how could I not provide this encouragement to my spouse? Of course, what ultimately happens is that once his wife feels appreciated, she will begin to reciprocate by showing appreciation for her husband. Ironically enough, how many times do we have each spouse withholding their appreciation from each other because they do not feel appreciated? If only one would be mature and kind enough to get the ball rolling!
How many people do we take for granted, especially when they act without fanfare or problems? They keep on faithfully doing their job and we take it for granted.
It is time we pay more attention to the good we receive from others. It is painful for people to feel unappreciated, so let us make sure that we do more to show our appreciation to them. While I cannot do anything for my last hot water tank other than honor it with this article, I will try to treat my new one with the respect it deserves.
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Rabbi Kestenbaum’s “Olam Hamiddos” and “Olam Ha’avodah” in English, published by ArtScroll/Mesorah, are available for purchase at all better Judaica stores.
Rabbi Kestenbaum is the mashgiach in the bais medrash of Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for private appointments, speaking engagements, or parenting and teacher workshops. His daily shiurim and past articles can be found on TorahAnytime and his website, Olamhamiddos.com. Rabbi Kestenbaum is the author of “Olam Hamiddos,” “Olam Ha’avodah,” “Run After the Right Kavod” and “The Heart of Parenting.”