Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief. Proverbs 14:13
In Proverbs we read: "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief." The traditional understanding of this teaching is that we shouldn't confuse fun with fulfillment or being at a party with being at peace. While we may be attracted to activities that look like fun, they won't necessarily fill our heart and soul. The material world can be enjoyable, but left unchecked, it can lead a person to an empty life, or even a self-destructive lifestyle.
However, I think that there is an additional lesson to be learned from this verse, one very relevant today. Scripture is not just teaching us something about ourselves, but something we need to know about others. Just because someone is laughing, doesn't mean they are happy. Just because someone appears to be enjoying life, doesn't mean they are ok.
In Australia, the country has instituted a national "R U OK Day." The "R U OK" organization was founded by the son of a successful businessman whom everyone thought was thriving in life. However, this man's father was not ok, and tragically, he took his own life. When Gavin Larkin grew up, he wanted to do something positive with the tragedy of losing his father. He started his organization in order to get people to look at others beneath the surface and check in on how they are really doing.
Gavin wanted people to ask "Are you ok?" and really mean it. A lot of people need help, but don't ask for it. A lot of people look fine, but are not ok at all. By asking this one simple question, Gavin believed that future tragedies could be averted.
The Bible teaches us: "Don't just stand by when your neighbor's life is in danger" (Leviticus 19:16 The Message), and then immediately after that comes the command to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). We are commanded to love others and love means not being indifferent to another person's pain. Unfortunately, we have come to learn as a society that when a person feels unwell emotionally, their life might be in danger. We are not allowed to stand idly by when someone's life is at stake, and so we must do what we can to ensure the emotional well-being of others, as well as their physical safety.
Today, pick one or two people to check up on. Ask "Are you ok?" and really mean it. Listen deeply when others speak to you and look them in the eye. Most of all, come from a place of love and concern. If we take the time to sincerely ask this simple question, we could change a life or even save one.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President