One Side of the Story
As the band played, my cousin David teetered precariously on a synagogue chair lifted high above the happy, proud faces of his bar mitzvah guests.
Alternating between euphoria and terror, David clutched the sides of the chair, willing himself to be brave, and smiled broadly; after all, this was his day. He had worked all year to recite his Torah portion flawlessly, and now he could celebrate.
The room appeared to be well-prepared for such a celebration: The tables were bedecked with fine china and festive balloon centerpieces, and the band kept people on their toes. Yet I couldn't help but notice that one important element was noticeably absent: No photographer snapped pictures of this memorable event.
Confused, I wondered how someone with such a significant role could not be here. Yet when David gave his speech, not one bulb flashed. He called up his relatives to kindle his birthday candles, danced with his friends and family, lost playing limbo, and even kissed his older sister--something he hadn't done since he was a baby. No photographer captured these moments on film.
Dessert was being served when a burly man, wearing shorts and T-shirt and clutching a camera, burst through the doors of the hall. A guest directed him towards David, where he began to rapidly snap pictures, all the while calling, "Give me a smile, bar mitzvah boy!" Sweating profusely, he endeavored to gather the guests at their tables for group photos, although some had already gone home. Running from one table to another, he snapped roll after roll of film.
Appalling, I thought. What kind of a photographer has the audacity to arrive late at a bar mitzvah, and not even dressed properly? How many precious memories would be forgotten because he hadn't taken the pictures in time? What possible excuse could justify such irresponsible behavior?
I would be sure to find out his name before I left. At least I could warn my friends never to hire him for any of their important events.
The Other Side of the Story
Sundays without weddings or b'nei mitzvah are rare in my profession, but I was looking forward to a quiet afternoon taking care of business at my studio. I was examining photo proofs when the phone's ring startled me. Now, who would be calling on a Sunday? I thought.
I'm not sure why I answered the phone; perhaps I thought it was my wife, or perhaps I just wanted it to stop ringing. But the voice on the other end of the line turned my relaxing Sunday upside-down.
"True You Photography."
"Hello? Oh, thank goodness someone is there!
We're having a crisis here, and we need you to come down immediately..."
"Whoa," I said. "Slow down. What are you talking about?"
The woman drew a deep breath. "I'm at Beth Emet, not far from your studio. My friend's son David is having his bar mitzvah party today, and the photographer never showed up! All the relatives and friends are here, and we won't have any pictures! Can you possibly help us?"
I considered the unusual request. "What time does the bar mitzvah start?"
"It already started," she replied, her voice catching, "almost two hours ago."
I thought of this 13-year-old kid one day explaining to his grandchildren why he had no pictures of his bar mitzvah. Not if I can help it, I decided.
"I'll be right there," I said, and hung up the phone.
I left the photo proofs on the table, grabbed my car keys, and headed out the door. I certainly wasn't dressed for the occasion, but I didn't want to waste more time by going home to change.
On the way to the synagogue, I planned my strategy: I would take as many pictures as I could, as well as I could. As I entered the hall, I thought of the quiet Sunday I had looked forward to, but took solace from knowing that I had definitely done the right thing.
And besides, I thought hopefully, good deeds can help bring good business.
He never replied to your e-mail.
She ignored you in class.
He invited your friend to the movie, but not you.
She pushed ahead of you in line.
WE’VE ALL MET THEM — the people who are thoughtless, inconsiderate, and stuck-up — or have we?
Perhaps your e-mail was zapped by an overzealous spam-blocker.
Maybe she had a fight with another friend this morning and she’s consumed by the thought of it.
It’s possible he thought you’d seen the movie already.
Maybe she has low blood sugar and needs to eat immediately.
SOUNDS IMPROBABLE? It happens all the time. For this reason, our sages cautioned us: Hevay dan et kol ha’adam l’khaf z’khut, Judge everyone favorably, Pirkei Avot 1:6. So the next time a person behaves strangely, look beyond the way things appear. There may be another side to the story.