Guest commentary: Take time to appreciate that precious things are without value to those who cannot prize them
My daughter is a collector. This may be because she is a twin and feels the need to assert ownership over her possessions, and it may be because she actually treasures, however any 2-year-old can, each item she chooses to pick up. Either way, she collects.
She collects rocks, holding as many as she can in the bend of her tiny elbow, as she kneels down for just one more. She collects only the blue hair ties, squishing them into her palm and holding onto them for hours as she plays with the other hand.
This impulse to collect, because I find it adorable, motivated me to find stories to read to her about collectors and their collections. So in a way, I have become a collector, too. In my search, I came across one of Aesop’s Fables, “The Cock and the Jewel.”
A cock was busily scratching and scraping about to find something to eat for himself and his family, when he happened to turn up a precious jewel that had been lost by its owner. “Aha!” said the cock. “No doubt you are very costly and he who lost you would give a great deal to find you. But as for me, I would choose a single grain of barleycorn before all the jewels in the world.“ Precious things are without value to those who cannot prize them.
What are the precious things that should have value that I have not yet prized?
My grandparents moved to Israel when I was a young girl. Without Zoom and video calls, we saw them only when they came to visit us in New York. They would come yearly and stay for a month or two each visit.
I have fond memories of sitting on my grandmother’s lap learning to knit, enjoying a cheese danish for breakfast that my grandfather picked up from the bakery before I was awake, and singing songs around the Shabbat table together.
One thing I recall really disliking was when my grandmother would smother me with kisses. Each time they said goodbye at the end of a visit she would nibble on my cheek as she kissed me goodbye. She called this “planting a kissing tree” so that I would have her kisses on my cheek until the next visit. Needless to say, I rubbed away the kissing tree the moment their airport taxi drove off. Precious things are without value to those who cannot prize them.
Now my children live miles away from their grandparents. When my parents visit I think about the kissing tree that my grandmother planted on my cheeks 35 years ago. I am struck by how something that had no value to me initially has become so very precious. My grandmother is no longer with us, yet her love is palpable and present in my life.
Now when my parents visit I collect every hug and kiss, knowing that my children might be too young to appreciate them, and hoping that these moments truly are planting the seeds for deep affection and love that will be with my children when they are my age. Anything can be precious to those who know to prize them.
What have you collected? Items, moments in time, memories, special heirlooms? How have your collections changed over time? How have your collections changed you? What have you learned to value and prize as most precious?
During this holiday season, may the glow from each Chankah menorah, Christmas tree star, Kinara candle, street lamp, and even the moon and twinkling stars remind us of the value in collecting something that is perhaps not a thing at all.
Sima Oster is the Education and Family Engagement Director for the Aspen Jewish Congregation.