Hidden Yellow Circles

My daughter loves to use her yellow highlighter to write on the wall. I say, “Esther Malki, we don’t write on walls.” She shrugs and asks, “Why? You can’t even see it!” She’s right. You really can’t see any marks. That’s because the ink from this marker only appears when you shine the flashlight located on the bottom of the highlighter at the writing.
Last week Esther Malki was in an imaginative mood and decided to pretend she was having a sleepover. She closed all the lights and cuddled up on the couch with a library book. It was dark. She needed a flashlight to see. Her highlighter flashlight came in handy.
Suddenly she started laughing. “Mommy, look,” she called out. And lo and behold we saw that someone had circled some words in the book with this same marker. We han’t noticed any marks until the light was shining on it.
Now I started imagining. Who had written in this book? Had it happened last week or five years ago? Was it done by a little girl who was bored? Or was it a brother who was bothering his sister? Did they ever wonder if anyone would discover this writing?
It was a great lesson for me that so often we don’t know how an action will affect someone else. And we certainly don’t know who or when.
My parents received many letters following their losses. Once in a while I take out the box of letters (that has been bequeathed to me following their petirahs) and read them through. When I come across a particularly touching one, I think about the person who wrote it. What is striking is that by now, all of these letters are a number of years old. Maybe the letter writers remember sending them or maybe they don’t, but each person who made the effort is still bringing comfort today – and they don’t even know it!
This concept certainly does not have to be limited to the physical world. There are so many people in my family whom I miss. How I crave that physical connection – the conversation, the chitchat, the advice-giving, and just the shmoozing? I know that I can’t have that connection anymore.
But the connection isn’t gone. It just changed.
When a meshulach comes to my door and I pull out a dollar, I say it should be for an aliyas neshamah for… and recite the names of my loved ones. When I do that, I have created a connection. I know I did something for their neshamahs, although I don’t know how big or small. Unquestionably, my actions down here count.
I can say, whatever good I do today should be for an aliyas neshamah for my loved one. I might forget that I said it. I might not know how my little chesed or my berachah said with extra kavanah affected the neshamah. And I won’t know because I can’t shine a light up, give a wave and say, “Hi there, please let me know how my action affected you.”
But once upon a time there was a child who circled some words in a book. And this child didn’t know that by drawing some circles, she taught me a lesson about actions and connections.

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