I grew up in a generation where our parents tried to give us all they could.  This was because my parents generation went through the great depression, and they did without so much when they grew up, they gave my generation everything they wished they had when they were growing up.  My generation, in turn, continued trying to give our children everything we could, because that’s what we learned from our parents.  This practice led to a feeling of entitlement where people think everyone should bend over backwards for them and that their needs and wishes come before the wishes and needs of others.

I was sitting on a plane after I put my jacket, carry on bag and Stetson hat in the overhead compartment.  Everyone else did the same with their things.  At the last-minute, a young woman got on the plane and was looking for a place to put her violin.  She started complaining that my hat was taking up space that could be used for her violin, and that a $10,000.00 violin should take precedence over a $50.00 Stetson.  I nicely told her that just because she showed up late with an expensive violin didn’t mean my Stetson should be crushed.

The way I saw it, if she was so worried about an expensive instrument, she could have bought a ticket for it and given it a seat.  If she were that concerned, she could have made sure she got on the plane earlier than at the last-minute.  At any rate, hats and violins don’t “deserve” space, people deserve space.  What she was actually saying was that she deserved the space for her things more than other people deserved space for theirs.

The sad thing is, that if she asked nicely if I would move my hat, I would have been happy to oblige her.  Because her attitude was greedy and self-serving, I really didn’t want to move my things.  Maybe I wasn’t nicer about it, but I let her find a place somewhere else on the plane.  The looks people were giving me told me that they agreed with me.

How many times do we turn people off by self-serving attitudes, instead of attitudes of self-sacrifice?  If we want people to help us and do things for us when we need them, we need to be doing things for others when they need it. We need to be living our lives in such a way that people know if they need us, we will help them.

Perhaps I should have found another place for my hat.  I could have done it, but the whining violinist didn’t make it easy for me.  I’m not perfect, as everyone who knows me knows, and I too can use some encouragement to do the right thing.  If we all had attitudes that were not selfish and self-seeking, it would make it a lot easier for people to reach out and help us when we need it.

God is a loving father.  He loves us, blesses us, and gives us all kinds of good things.  Sometimes we take Him for granted too!  One of the purposes of religion is to remind us to be grateful for all God has given us.  Good things don’t always come our way, but when they do, we should be thankful.

The answer is not to deprive our loved ones of good things, but to make them realize that they receive out of love, not out of entitlement.  It’s good for us to remember this as well.


2 thoughts on “Entitlements

  1. Well said and well done, Rabbi. I do think, though, that you are about as close to perfect as a human can be.

    That woman is a product of a society that says, “Screw you. I’m first.” Young people are brought up to get revenge on anyone who offends them, and they think it is their right and duty to do that. If you offend me somehow, and I get revenge, it proves that I am better than you, and you need to be shown that.

    Don’t feel guilty that you didn’t move your hat. That hat was probably as important to you as the violin was to her, and as you pointed out, you were there first. The $10,000 business was nothing more than her showing you that she was better than you because she had the violin and you only had a hat. Since she was better than you, she was ENTITLED to expect you to submit to her.

    What a load!

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