Although life is filled with those tasks that we are required to complete, very often we have actions that can be considered optional. There are numerous examples. We can opt to recognize birthdays or not. We can make the same choice with respect to anniversaries, work anniversaries, promotions, new positions, childbirth, or copious other events. Social media has made it possible for us to post occasions that would otherwise go unnoticed, such as dog birthdays and the anniversary of getting a nose pierced.

My brother died recently and I was touched by the number of people who expressed condolences and offers to help in any possible way. While I didn’t create a spreadsheet of those who remembered him and me, I am quite clear about those who took the thirty seconds to send a note or the considerable time to mail a condolence card. At the same time, I am cognizant of those who didn’t bother, for reasons that I may or may not understand.

Have we reached a point in civilization where common courtesies such as expressing sympathy or sending a thank you note have become irrelevant or obsolete? It becomes quite easy to explain or justify the lack of basic kindness. I am very busy. She’ll never notice. She forgot my birthday. She has other things on her mind – one more card won’t make any difference.

Suffice it to say that it does make a difference. Several people, many of whom live in another state and time zone, went way out of their ways to offer support, if only through a phone call. Others did absolutely nothing. And eventually, it will become time for the birthdays of those who forgot, were unaware, or simply didn’t care enough to do anything at all.

My first instinct, one for which I offer apologies, is to respond by “forgetting” the birthdays of those who forgot me. The only way to justify that decision is to rationalize that it teaches a lesson. My second reaction is to take the high road, forget what was or wasn’t done toward me, and remember the birthdays and other events. As I frequently remark, there are never any apologies for doing the right thing. Maybe by doing so, I can communicate that the high road is a much better and more scenic path to take. Shalom.

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