“Hi Miri!” Shiri’s voice greets me cheerfully on the phone.
I smile. I am lucky to have her as a friend. She is really popular and I am pretty smart and we complement each other beautifully.
Miri and Shiri. Yes, it sounds like something out of a kid’s book, but it also sounds so catchy. So… prefect.
Shiri and I weren’t always friends. One day, I think it was about four months ago, our teacher Mrs. Leiberman had put Shiri in the seat next to mine. We quickly realized that we were great study partners. I love to explain and Shiri loves to explain to, so that worked out pretty well.
Since then our studying had morphed into a real, genuine friendship, and I couldn’t have been happier.
“How’s everything going?” Shiri now asks me.
“I’m great, how about you?”
“Fine, Baruch Hashem. Anyway, I was wondering, do you mind explaining to me a couple of things for the Chumash test that’s going to be in two days?”
I actually did find of mind. I was just about to settle down with my new fat novel and a snack, and really didn’t feel like going over the material again. (I had finished studying for this test already.)
You can always read later,” I tell myself half-heartedly.
“Ok,” I say, trying to inject a note of cheerfulness into my voice. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Now that you are Shiri’s friend, you aren’t the lonely, goody- goody you used to be. And how does that feel? I ask myself. Amazing. I am actually, finally, – dare I say it? – popular. And it feels good. I fear that if I’ll let Shiri down she’ll drop me as a friend, and I’ll drop too; down, down, down in the ranks of popularity.
“Great, I knew that I could count on you!” Shiri says in her usual cheerful way, having no clue of my deliberation. I feel a slight twinge of guilt.
One and a half long hours later, I collapse onto the couch with a sigh of relief. I like explaining, as I’ve mentioned earlier, but I can a get a little too much. Even for me.
“Are you ok Miri?” my older brother, Yehoshua, asks. “It looks like you’ve just run the marathon!” he quips.
“Not quite,” I say dryly.
“So then what have you been doing?” Yehoshua asks. Mr. Curious, that’s him. Always butting his nose into other people’s business. I usually don’t mind it. But now…
“I was studying,” I decide to say.
Yehoshua looks surprised. “And for that you look like you’ve had a battle with an elephant? I don’t remember my 8th grade year being so torturous back in the good old days! And you’re pretty smart, no?”
“Why thanks dear bro,” I mumble, and without bothering to answer, I drag myself out of the room.
An hour later though, I am back to myself. I am putting the finishing touches on delicious looking (if I say so myself) frosted cream cake for Ayala’s birthday tomorrow, when the phone rings. It’s lucky that I even hear it through the loud, leibedig music bouncing through the speakers. I glace at the phone. Shiri. Usually the very sight of her name fills me heart with joy, but now I am wary. I wipe my cream covered hands on a towel and pick up.
“Hey Miri! Wow, it sounds like your house is rocking!”
“Yup,” I agree, going over to turn off the music.
Shiri and I actually manage to have a fun filled conversation for about 15 minutes. Then the inevitable happens.
“Miri, thank you so much for helping me before, you were amazing. But do you mind, I’ve got two more questions for you, I’ll keep it quick.”
No, It won’t be quick! A voice screams in my head. And yes, I do mind! I need some time to myself. I can’t spend all my life helping you ace tests!
I don’t voice any of my thoughts aloud though. I just can’t risk it. With a stifled sigh, I agree.
“Miri dear, is anything the matter?” Ma asks kindly while ladling soup into various bowls. You seem a bit… subdued.”
“She’s been like that for ages already,” Yehoshua states sagely with a nod of his head.
Thank you so much Yehoshua dear brother. You are really helping me out here.
Ma looks concerned, but I brush away her worries with a nonchalant wave of my hand.
“Ok then, who wants soup?” Ma asks, and a choros of “me’s”! put the subject to rest. I breathe a quiet sigh of relief.
“Oh Miri, I’ve got some good news for you,” my oldest sister Meira, who is in 12th grade, pipes up.
I look up eagerly from my bowl of thick, delicious pumpkin soup.
“There is a huge sale in a couple of stores, and I’m going there later this evening to buy a couple of things. Do you want to come along?”
I nod with a grin. Ma usually doesn’t like me going out at night, so I like to grab the chance when she does. Add that to the fact that being with my popular sister Meira is more than fun. Yes siree, count me in! In a much better mood, I clear my plate of the remaining food, dump it into the sink and run to grab my coat.
Being alone with my sister is as amazing as always, and I try to savour this shopping trip as much as possible.
I’m in the middle of deliberating between the pink fluffy sweater or the cream one, when I spot someone familiar.
“Hi Miri!” she calls in my direction. “Fancy seeing you here!”
“Oh hi, Shiri,” I walk over, a tad less exuberant than usual. But then I figure that the mall is a safe territory and I shouldn’t be worried. But she is ruining my special time with Meira, so I can’t say that I’m too glad.
“It’s really great to see you, but, uh…” I decide to be honest, but it’s not coming out well. “My sister…”
Luckily Shiri understands. “Oh, you’re with Meira now? That’s fine”-
I’m glad. I’ve always wondered if Shiri became my friend because I have a popular older sister. I hope not. I’d rather not think about it.
“-But I just have to ask you one more thing,” Shiri continues while rummaging around her bag. My heart plummets. Here? Now?
I watch as Shiri takes her Chumash notebook out of her bag, and I’m solely tempted to just run away. Why on earth did Shiri take her Chumash notebook with her to the mall? Did she have a feeling that I’d be here? And since when did she turn into Ms. Studious? Maybe I’m rubbing off on her?
“So here, on question 5, do you mind explaining it to me one more time?”
I am seriously about to answer “no”, but then I picture myself without any friends again; without Shiri, and relent.
“Thank you so much! You’re the greatest!”
I do not feel like the greatest; not at all. I quickly go to Meira and explain to her what I’m about to do. She must have noticed the look on my face and says- “sure, but I’d like to talk you about, uh, something when you finish.”
Shiri leads me to a quiet corner. I explain to her the question and answer as best as I can. We then part. Shiri, cheerfully, having no idea of my thoughts and feelings, and me with a heavy heart and a sour taste in my mouth. I walk slowly up to Meira, my previous excitement over the shopping spree dissolved into nothingness.
“Ok Miri. What has gotten in to you?” Meira asks straight out.
“Uh, what do you mean?” I ask, knowing full well what she means.
“Has this got something to do with Shiri?”
I want to deny it, but before long the whole story come tumbling out of my mouth.
“- And I’m just sick of helping her all the time! I know it sounds bad, but I really need some time to myself as well! I used to like it, but now…”
“Oh Miri,” Meira shakes her head. “Did you ever know that there is such a thing as helping someone too much? Even though it’s a chessed… if you feel as if you just can’t anymore then it’s a chessed to yourself to stop. You have to rest and recuperate. And when you feel is a good time for both of you, then you can continue. That way it’ll be better for both of you, since Shiri probably senses that you’re not doing this with your full heart.”
“I’m afraid that she might stop bring my friend if I say no.”
Meira looks slightly taken aback. “Miri, now’s not the time to be afraid. If she is your real friend, she’ll understand. And if she won’t understand… it may not be so right for you to be friends.”
I look at her in shock. “You mean, she may not be my real friend? Maybe she’s just doing as if she’s my friend so she can copy my notes?”
“No, I’m not saying that,” Meira hurries to say, “but there is a slight chance that it may be. You just have to find out and see.”
I nod slowly. As much as I want things to chance, I also want things to stay how they are; if that makes any sense… Come what may, I’ll be ready to face it.
The old Miri restored, I sort through the skits feeling as free as a butterfly.
Chessed is an excellent thing, it’s a huge Mitzvah. And you should be grabbing as many opportunities to do kindness as you can. This story was not written to stop you from speading kindness to others. But, like in the story, sometime it can be too much. If you feel like someone is “using” you, speak to a parent or teacher to find out if what you are doing for them is a real kindness or not.
This story doesn’t have a full ending. Miri didn’t find out of Shiri was “using” her, or if she was a real friend. It very well could have been an unhealthy friendship, and it very well could have been the opposite as well. You can use your imagination to make a full ending for this story. Do you want the ending to be a happy ending, or not as happy? It’s up to you.
I am also planning to publish a full list of easy chassadim, easy kindnesses, that you can do.