Talmud this Shabbat: Can Feeling Felt Happen in Transactional Contexts?


You are getting a ride in an Uber, Lyft or cab. You are tired, busy, distracted. You’d like to respond to texts and emails; catch up on the news; phone a loved one; chill out and sleep. But the driver is chatty. The driver wants to talk. Do you cue the driver that you are not interested? Do you cue the driver: please just drive? Or do you transcend yourself in an effort to make the driver feel felt?

On Shabbat we are going to read “Heart,” a short story in Elizabeth Strout’s new collection, Olive, Again. What is new and different about “Heart” is that all of the relationships are transactional: a doctor, a nurse, two different home health aides. Olive’s heart attack sets in motion all of these transactional relationships with different health care providers. Previous stories featured long-lasting relationships: spouses, parents and children, siblings, attorney-client, friends. This is a story for a gig economy about temporary relationships that come into being for a specific reason and are then no more.

What would it look like if we were able to suffuse our transactional relationships with holiness? What would it look like if the other person on the other end of a gig moment felt felt? Can you, by how you engage your driver, add to the quantity of healing in our world?

How do we make others feel felt? A helpful answer is in “Heart.”

See you on Shabbat,
Wes