THE EXPENSIVE ORANGES
It was the night after Purim. A beautiful, memorable and exhausting Purim, but Shabbat was the next night and we had to shop and stock up again. Plus a snowstorm was forecasted for Friday, so we wanted to have all the stuff in the house. Among the list Raizy gave me was to get assorted fruit for dessert.
Off I went to Price Chopper, arriving there just before midnight. The snow was just starting. Usually the store is pretty empty at that time of night, but there were long lines at the one solo cashier, probably because of the coming storm. I went around and filled up a cart with bottles of seltzer, some odds and ends and a bunch of things we needed and then got some fruit. I don’t usually buy the big jumbo oranges, but this time I got ten of them.
The line at the cashier was long, and she was the only one open. I’m assuming its much quieter at midnight but this was night was different as the snow started to come down. Most people were buying a couple of items, but I had a cart-full. She rung it all up, I packed it into the cart. Once I paid, I looked at the receipt and whoa! Something was wrong. We’ve paid hundreds and even a thousand at Price Chopper Kosher before, but this was just odds and ends, how did it come to be $230?
Then I saw it. I bought ten oranges but she rang up a hundred. That pesky extra zero! What to do now? There was no one at Customer Service, no manager in sight. The poor cashier still had a long line of customers waiting. I first thought of leaving and coming back to deal with it another day. But how would I prove that I didn’t buy those 90 extra jumbo oranges? I had no choice but to go back to the cashier and point it out. It was a $90 mistake!
I offered to go wait at the back of the line, but she was eager to fix it. She said it would only take a minute. It didn’t. That’s because the words are big and bold on the screen when it comes to spending money but to return it she had to read the fine print on the screen and enter a bunch of numbers off the receipt. But she did it and I got my money back.
So what’s the moral of the story? Why am I sharing this transaction mistake with college students at a Shabbat dinner?
Two lessons: Place Value and Timing.
Not to diminish people to numbers and digits, because we truly believe that each and every person has infinite unquantifiable value, but assume for this message’s sake that each person is like a number. Some people might feel like a number 10, complete, whole, on top of their world. A lot of people probably feel like 5’s and 6’s, average, normal. Others might feel like 2’s and 3’s, sometimes people even feel like zero’s, grossly underestimating their own worth. And there are times that probably all of us can feel like zero’s.
But place value can do a lot to change that. Think about it, being Jewishly involved in a place like UAlbany is all the more valuable and appreciated than doing the same in a place like Jerusalem or Brooklyn. The place changes the value. Just as it does in first grade math with the ones, tens and hundreds columns. You may not feel like much, but you sure do make a big difference here. We don’t only need those 8’s and 10’s to build a Jewish campus community. In a place like this, folks who fee like 2’s and 0’s help just as much. Because you and the place value you are in make that difference.
This isn’t only true of Jewish life on campus. The same can be said of parenting or anything. It’s not about being perfect or on top of your game, but about being where you are needed, you place, your situation adds so much value, despite whatever you may value yourself at.
A lot of us would prefer to deal with things later, tackle that another time, some other day, but not now. But then you might lose $90! Some things can’t wait, and by doing it now we maximize that value and get the most out of it.
And yes, those big jumbo oranges (the ten we did buy) were delicious! Some had them for Shabbos breakfast before Minyan, others at Shabbos Lunch.