Wednesday, November 9, 2022

It Could Always Be Worse

“Once upon a time, “ begins the Yiddish folktale,“there was a family who lived in a very small house. The father would be cooking, the mother paying bills, the older brother practicing violin, his sister practicing her ball-bouncing, another building towers with blocks that kept falling down and a little toddler alternately crying and laughing. It was crowded and noisy beyond the mother’s tolerance, who simply couldn’t concentrate on adding the numbers she needed to. Finally, at the end of the rope, she slammed her fists on the table and shouted, ‘I can’t take this any more!!!’


So she walked out the door and went into the village to ask advice from the wise rabbi.

The rabbi listened to the problem and then asked, ‘Tell me, do you have a cat?’ 


‘Why, yes,” said the mother, ‘there is a cat who lives outside.’


‘Then bring him into the house. That should help.’


The mother was a bit confused by the advice, but the wisdom of this rabbi was well-known, so she shrugged her shoulders, went home and brought the cat into the house. The cat jumped up on shelves and knocked things over, hissed and shrieked, scratched the children who tried to pet it and made them cry. The chaos was worse than before.


Back to the rabbi the woman went. Again, he listened and then asked ‘Do you have a dog?’ Again, the good woman admitted they had a dog who lived outside. ‘Bring him in’ advised the rabbi.


Well, you can  guess what happened. The dog barked non-stop, chased the cat who yowled and knocked things over while escaping. It was worse than before. Much worse.


Back the woman went, time and time again and brought in some chickens and a goat and even a cow. It was utter pandemonium. Finally the mother had had enough. She stormed into the rabbi’s house and told him in no uncertain terms, “You call yourself a wise rabbi?!! The noise and  chaos is ten times worse than it has ever been!! I never should have listened to you!!!” 


The rabbi listened quietly and then said, “I hope you will listen to my final piece of advice. Go home and take all the animals out of the house.’ 


‘That’s the first piece of sensible advice you’ve given me!’


So she went home and did as the rabbi suggested and there they were again, cooking, paying bills, practicing violin, bouncing a ball, building a tower and laughing— and suddenly, it seemed so peaceful and quiet. And so the mother concluded:


“ No matter how bad things seem, it could always be worse.”


This delightful story became a favorite Holiday Play in my years of teaching, one I repeated two or three times. But it’s also a good fable for today, the day after Election Day.


After my big dramatic build-up this morning, the tsunami blue-wave didn’t exactly come as hoped for, but neither did the predicted red wave. It was a mixture of sweet victories and bitter defeats and the jury is still out for two crucial races. I personally don’t think we can afford many more elections that block or slow the needed change, but for now at least, I supposed I can be grateful that “it could always be worse.” After years of letting the noisy, dirty, vicious animals into the house ( and Senate) and our nervous systems adapting to chaos and pandemonium as the new norm, we’ve kicked a few out and can feel the shift to the more harmonious peace and quiet we deserve. Not enough, for sure, but again, it could always be worse. They could have brought in the pit bulls and hyenas and rhinos. 

Or, God forbid, Herschel Walker.  May it NOT be so.


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