The Road To Follow Is Not So Easily Defined ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This essay study is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

Many years ago when copy machines were not so common I owned several printing establishments. The central printing business was in a small town surrounded by industry. It was managed by a very capable young woman. She worked diligently. Her tireless watch over each of my clients' projects was deeply appreciated and required. Miss M. was a very honest, responsible and caring individual.

This was in the days when someone who was not so honest or who was naive could walk into a printing establishment with a temporary automobile plate. Back then when copiers were still new, most people hadn't given a thought to the dishonest uses of a copier, myself and Miss M. included.

One day a smart thinking fellow walked in with his temporary plate and asked Miss M. to make a plain copy on blue or green paper. And without thinking, she did. He paid her and left. A little later Miss M. realized what a serious error she had committed. Her conscience could not withhold the guilt she felt. She came back to the production room where I worked and requested an immediate meeting with me. This only happened when there was a serious problem. She was quite serious as she apologized for her mistake. I forgave her and said, Don't let it happen again. Please be careful. She said, Is that all you're going to do? There's a guy driving around with a blue temporary license plate that was forged by your company? I asked, Was he a local? She responded, No, I've never seen him before. It was my feeling that we would have to let this one get away. I said, He's long gone by now. Let it go.

Later at lunch time I went to the front where Miss M. worked to relieve her during her lunch break. Before she went to lunch she turned to me and stated the police should be here soon. I questioned why. She said, I reported the forgery. I asked, Do you realize I could get in trouble? She said, Yes, as she walked out the door! I was very dissatisfied! She made the mistake but I was responsible because Miss M worked for me! I thought, Why couldn't she have kept her mouth shut?! This is the way it works sometimes....

Hashem also informs us in the Torah that we are responsible for our brother. On Yom Kippur we even pray for the sins of our brother...Kal Yisroel...

Thank G-d that the police officer who took the report was very understanding. In that small industrial town there were a number of hard firm police that may have cited me or my business. It could have even been worse, G-d forbid! One could say as owner I should have had the foresight to instruct employees in forgery of documents like these. One could also say Miss M. made a serious mistake. But, who is more guilty, the child who plays with matches or the parent that has no foresight in putting them in safe keeping?

Sometimes the road to follow is not so easily defined even when it seems to be so clear. You get on the road and follow it. You've done it many times before! Yet, if you're not careful, a deep thought, a serious conflict, a song on the radio, a news report, a Torah tape or a crazy driver could cause you to miss your turn...

Miss M. was tired from working, tired from studying for college exams and tired from late night socials. She was under pressure to complete several rush orders for customers! Without a second thought she made what at the time eemed like a routine copy and the man was gone. Several crimes were committed. She was in trouble, the criminal customer was in trouble and I was in trouble.

It is so easy to make a mistake. Many printing orders are reprinted because an ...IF... should have been an ...IN... or because of a wrong phone number or a misspelled word, usually the customer's business or their name. These type of problems normally happen on rush days when employees are pulling an unwanted second shift after a restless night with a sick kid, a barking dog... missed breakfast, forgot lunch and lunch money in addition to the fender bender on the way to work G-d forbid! It is easy to make a mistake, even a serious mistake, when our judgment is seriously challenged... Frustration and anxiety can cloud a person's judgment beyond our wildest imagination...

It's not always easy making the right choice in difficult situations. A problem ERUPTS WHEN we find ourself consistently repeating the same mistake. One mistake is usually understandable BUT CONSISTANTLY REPATING THE SAME MISTAKE IS NOT! Repeating the same offence is like a giant stop sign telling us TO STOP AND EVALUATE! let's do that....

First, constantly repeating the same mistake could mean we have not carefully analyzed what causesTHE ERUPTION...

Second, if we have considered and diagnosed the problem...sick kids, barking dog, long hours at work...whatever the conclusion, if we cannot change our immediate environment we must find relief through another avenue like stress reduction, walks, workouts, lowering contrary foods (caffeine, sugar, etc.) and TIMEOUT'S! Since everyone's makeup is different, each of us must grapple with what we can do to make the very best out of the very worst sucessully.

Third, when we fail to analyze and when we fail to develop a plan to correct the problem we are not practicing shuva.

Fourth, it is good to be contrite in heart BUT being contriteis not enough. We must be contricious enough to own the problem and begin correcting it.

Fifth, dwelling in the same difficult work environment, repeating the same verbal abuse to family, to friends, to employers, to employees WILL NOT CUT IT!

G-d expects us to develop a plan to bring our frustrating environment into control.

Now our story about Miss M. and me was not typical. This only happened one time.
We took immediate steps to keep it from happening again and were successful. Our surroundings were still difficult but we found a way to deal with the problem.

We should know our weaknesses and act accordingly.

May Hashem help us to control our minutes of anger and to be better Jews....

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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