When I was in grade school we had a monthly assembly where two awards were given to students from each class. One was for middos and one was for davening. Month after month I aimed for an award, waiting to hear my name announced to the school. Although I was always a fairly well behaved kid, towards the time of the assembly I especially made an effort to appear to concentrate better on my prayers or to behave extra fine. But slowly the months passed as did the years and I never once received the award. It was a simple photocopy pasted on a sheet of colored paper, but I coveted it as if it were of great value.
Fast forward many many years. Somehow I am still bothered by this story. I blame the teachers for not seeing that all kids need to receive that extra attention. I blame the school for thinking they hold the power to decide who has proper middos, who has proper kavana. Yet recently I started to think of this story a little differently. Maybe it was merely preparing me for life. Here I am, older and single. Waiting to be “good enough”. I do chessed, I daven extra, I go to shiurim. And part of me is still waiting for someone to say- you deserve an award. This time I am hoping someone will notice my goodness and have a shidduch for me, a little more valuable than that sheet of paper. But the lesson I have learned is the same as the one in my grade school story. It is not up to others to decide what I deserve, who is doing enough, who is davening correctly. I do what I do because Hashem wants me to. And Hhe is the only One who can properly reward me.