A Rabbi tells the story of a motivational speaker who started off by holding up a crisp new $20 bill. “Who wants this?” he asked. And just about every hand in the room shot up. “I’m going to give this $20 to one of you,” he said. “But first, I’m going to do this.” And he crumpled up the bill. “Who wants it now?” he asked. The hands stayed up. “Really?” he said. “Well what if I do this?” and he dropped the bill on the floor and began to stomp on it. Then he paused and picked up the bill and held it up, crumpled and dirty. “Who wants it now?” he demanded. And all the hands went back up.

“My friends,” he said “you’ve learned a valuable lesson. When I started the bill was worth $20. And no matter what I did to it, you still wanted it. Because no matter what happened to that bill, it did not lose its value.”

“Many times,” he went on, “we are that bill. We are crushed, we are crumbled. We are dropped to the ground into the dirt as if we are worthless. Bad decisions or hapless circumstances make us feel as if we have no value. But never forget, no matter what has happened to you, you will always have value.

There are many versions of the crumpled dollar story out there. Says the Rabbi, “We are valued, we are valuable, no matter what. We are each of us already deserving. We may be crumpled but we never lose our intrinsic worth.

We are all broken. Not always in the most dramatic ways. We have all experienced brokenness, loss and pain. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and feel crumpled and worthless. Even all alone. But human value is innate in us. When we are lost and alone, when we are certain that no one knows us or loves us; when-crumpled and torn we doubt our own value: there is a path. The Psalmist, who knows well the pain of life, tells us about the Holy One who knows us.

“He heals the broken hearted, and binds up their wounds.”

Says the Rabbi, “No matter how crumpled and crushed we are, so long as the breath of life is within us, we can give thanks for life. And from that place of gratitude, we can feel a Divine Presence supporting us. Sometimes, even in our pain, our spirits can soar because we have value.”

May we have the patience to still the voice of our own despair. May we have the courage to reach out to Holiness and begin to feel whole again. May God’s embrace remind us that no matter how we are crumpled, we are still valued.

Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can find more information on his website.

Image courtesy of Juliano Astc.