Recently Elmo, the character from Sesame Street took to Twitter and asked the world, “How are you?” The response was tremendous. People were honest. Some explained that today is harder than yesterday. Others shared that they’re treading water, afraid of what might come next.
The greatest surprise did not come through the substance of the responses. The greatest surprise was how many people felt moved to answer. A fake character inspired others to share their deepest fears. Perhaps it felt safe to open up…to a puppet.
Do we create the same kind of invitation and safety with each other? When we ask after someone’s wellness, is the inquiry sincere enough to wait and hold the response? And when we are asked, do we feel moved to share what is lurking beneath the surface? How has a stuffed character on twitter achieved more than the current human experience?
In Pirke Avot, Shammai teaches that we should receive everyone with a cheerful countenance. In other words, a smile. Bartenura, a 16th century commentator explains that when a guest comes into our home, we shouldn’t receive our guest with our head buried in the ground. Certainly in the 16th century, Bartenura wasn’t referring to burying our faces in our cell phones. However, the sentiment is clearly shared between centuries. When we receive someone on the street, in a hallway or in our homes, do they receive our full attention or instead, receive distraction, irritation or even annoyance?
Elmo was concerned about the world. And the world responded. May we be just as moved to reach out and more importantly, be willing to wait for the answer.
Rabbi Nicole Guzik is senior rabbi at Sinai Temple. She can be reached at her Facebook page at Rabbi Nicole Guzik or on Instagram @rabbiguzik. For more writings, visit Rabbi Guzik’s blog section from Sinai Temple’s website.