This is a story about a young girl who has been battling cancer most of her life. She had a dream she thought couldn’t come true and a bunch of people who never knew this girl or her name, made her dream come true in less than a week.
This is a story about human hope, about how words can create worlds; it is about the gift of giving. Personally, I have learnt that there is nothing on earth more powerful than man’s will. When there is a will, G-d shows us the way.
As I write these words, I still don’t quite comprehend what has happened.
Before I take you back a week, imagine the following:
There is an island. It is deserted and desolate. On the bare soft sand surface there are many large sacks. One sack contains all the water since the beginning of time. Another sack contains all the sand since the beginning of time. Another metal, and so on and so forth. Anything and everything that has been in this world since the beginning of human life is in a sack. Now I ask you which the largest sack is.
The sack of words.
Hold that thought. Now I want to tell you what happened this week.
A week ago, a young girl was interviewed on Ilana Dayan’s radio show. The young girl, Mika, told Dayan about how she had been battling a tumor in her head for more than half of her life. Towards the end of the interview, Dayan asked Mika if she could have one wish, what it would be. Mika said she had one, but that it was silly. Dayan asked if she could share the wish. Mika said it couldn’t happen. Dayan again asked if she would anyway like to share with the listeners her wish. Mika told the following: I wish that for just one day, I had a driver and a credit card and I could go to a mall and buy stuff. Mika wanted just one day to forget about the hardship she has known for most of her life.
It was morning time and already by then, I am sure a great mass of words had been spoken and heard on that Thursday morning but none had affected a one Dr. Zohar Raviv like the words exchanged between Dayan and Mika.
Zohar, our VP of Education at Taglit-Birthright Israel, walks into the office and tells me he has a story he absolutely must share. Zohar told me about the interview, about how touched he was and about how he immediately called the production team of Dayan’s show, got a hold of Mika’s father and called him.
Zohar told the father he heard, he was touched and he wanted to make Mika’s dream happen. He spoke the following words to the father, the effect of them, I will never be able to measure: “I will be your daughter’s driver for the day and I am donating…(a handsome sum)”. You can try imagining what Mika’s father felt at that moment.
I can’t explain it, but I found myself uttering the following words just as Zohar finished his story: “Me too”.
From that moment on, we had, like every week, a lot of work to do, family stuff, friends and so forth but we also had a single word in mind which embedded itself in us and, as you will soon read, into many others. The word was “Mika”.
You know how there are those moments in life, in the outset of an idea or a dream we have, where something happens that makes the dream happen in a way you could never imagine? Let me tell you about that moment, the moment that made one man’s kindness into a powerful experience shared by a great many.
We had a driver and the two of us giving an amount towards fulfilling Mika’s dream. And then we thought why not post this story on Facebook. You never know.
That little moment in the outset of a dream that made it happen in a way we couldn’t imagine happened for me the moment I posted the story on Facebook. Man’s will power will always be matched by that of G-d and His cosmos.
Without more than a few minutes since the post went up, the first person commented on the status and say she’d give 350 shekels. Wow, I couldn’t believe it. But this was just the start.
By day’s end over 1000 shekels were raised through one status. A friend from America wired money to her brother to give, another, a student, told me he was only a student, hadn’t much money but said thank you for the amazing opportunity he was given to start his birthday with an act of giving. A couple I know not only donated, but went to collect donation from the town they live in.
Slowly I begin to realize what was happening here. More than what we were doing for someone we don’t know, this young girl, was doing something incredible for us all – through her words and wish, she gives us unknowingly, the greatest gift a person can receive – the gift of giving.
For the next week, we are collecting donations at all hours of the night. At times, we don’t enjoy it, its late, we have a long day tomorrow but you know what – that made the feeling even better. It’s fun to think how annoying it was at times to have to wait for someone outside their building or driving around in traffic to collect a donation, the burden of having to take actions towards a person you don’t know when you’d much rather, in all honesty, watch a movie.
I believe it was Steven Tyler who once said (or sang) “…life’s a journey, not a destination”. If not this story, I don’t know a better example for the truth of these words.
Before we knew it, from one single post on Facebook, updated as we go along, we managed to collect over 8,000 shekels from more than 30 people in less than a week ( and an additional 8,000 off of Facebook + several thousands in gifts). Some people, as I wrote, did much, much more than just donate. And the truth is, it isn’t about how much anyone gave, it is about how much people look for an opportunity to help and give.
And then, after one Facebook post and a week later, the day arrived. Mika knew nothing other than another day had arrived. Only her father knew what we all managed to make happen, that Mika’s wish would come true.
We arrived at Tel Hashomer hospital. The guard asked how I was doing. Fine I said and how are you? He said not so well. I asked why. He said because she wants a divorce. The short and surreal conversation came as if to remind us that we were in the real world despite feeling like part of another’s dream. And now, to the dream.
Ties on, brush up suits and become a butler for a day (later we find out she doesn’t want us to be her butler, but rather, her friends). For the first time, we meet Mika. A person we and many many others had never met before yet she was in our thoughts and actions for a week. The face of her mother and father were faces I will never forget. Not so much what they look like as much as the human expression their faces made. I feel grateful to have seen such human expression.
Mika didn’t know a thing. At first, she thought we were there to meet her father for business. “Do you know why we are here?” Zohar asked. Mika hadn’t a clue and she was clearly confused by the smiles on our faces.
We told her. We reminded her of the interview from just a week ago where she told Ilana Dayan that she has a dream but it’s silly and couldn’t come true. “This is nuts, this is nuts” she said, clasping her cheeks with her hands, her eyes slightly red and watery.
“This isn’t nuts Mika, but it is a dream, a dream come true.”
We told her a limo awaited us and we were going to a mall and she could buy anything she wanted. People are funny. We dream all the time yet at the same time, deep down, a lot of us find it hard to believe that dreams can come true. This, I believe, is mankind’s biggest obstacle in achieving true happiness. Mika’s face was a similar face; amazed yet doubtful.
And then, as we walked towards the main drag at Tel Hashomer, away from the ward Mika knows too well, where she has been having Chemo treatment for several years now, we see the biggest limousine we have ever seen. The way that long white vehicle gracefully turned around the roundabout was magical. I am pretty sure everyone’s jaws dropped.
The driver got out of the car, put on his jacket and hat and opened the door for Mika. Again, her hands held onto her cheeks in amazement, still finding it hard to believe. She asked again and again if she really had money to spend for presents and the mall.
In the stretched limo we have some nice small talk. We learn that in the real world, what Mika wants more than anything is to have a boring summer. “If you know what I mean” she says, and we do. We learn that Mika is frighteningly bright, she has a touch of charisma to her and impressive self-awareness as well as much awareness and care to those around her. A real gem.
As we approach the Ramat Aviv mall (because let’s face it, it is a dream) we see through the dark windows that a bunch of curious girls await to see which celebrity will be stepping out of the limo. After all, it isn’t every day, even at the Ramat Aviv mall that you see someone exit their stretched limo to do some shopping.
The “celebrity” reveals herself. Accompanied by a respectable looking party of four we escort the young madam into the mall. We take a map of the mall “because we should plan where to go and remember the people I want to buy presents for” says Mika.
We go through our daily lives in a routine that we have a love hate relationship with. Routine is oh so good but dreams don’t happen in routine. As we walked through shops we made a point of telling people, after Mika had chosen what she wanted and after we gave her the overfilled envelope of cash to pay, what the story was. We got a unanimous response “Oh, my, you just gave me Goosebumps all over my body.” The look on people’s faces, their bodies’ reaction, was priceless. People who aren’t part of the dream want to hear about the dream. Who knows, the words spoken of one’s dream might create the start of another’s.
In the first shop we entered, a toy shop, Mika still couldn’t believe she could get whatever she wanted. Looking for a fluffy animal to buy her helper at school, she focused on the smaller ones. We told her she could have anyone she wanted. “No but they probably cost so much” to which we responded “But Mika, this is a dream and in dreams money has no value.”
By day’s end Mika believed. Most of what she bought was for others but she started to understand she could buy whatever she wanted for others, and she did. Anything she bought for herself, she bought her sister. She bought her parents what she thought each of them wanted most. She bought her class mates the best Belgian chocolate the Ramat Aviv mall had to offer, and much much more.
“Do you want to know the story?” we asked again and again the faces of curious shopkeepers. A woman in a nice shop that sold bed cushions and blankets had to take a minute, she couldn’t process the amount and apologized saying she was so touched by the story and that it made her weekend. She went on to gift pack a blanket like I’d never see anything gift packed before.
The staff at the electric store was amazed, and one seller openly said it reminded him of the time his father got that disease. He grabbed his forehead; his face was a mixture of sadness and joy. “Your story made our weekend, thank you for sharing.” They all said.
That same seller was the first one we happened to tell the story to. In retrospect, it was amazing to see how devoted he became to making sure she received the best service possible even though another kind staff person was already assisting – so kindly and unknowingly.
I could go on but the sack of words is only getting bigger and I believe these words above are what is needed to justify their creation.
Remember the island and the sacks? Well, I take from this story two things. One, words are free and oh so many, but the right words and priceless. And two, there must be one sack on that island that is the smallest of them all but more precious than all put together – the sack of dreams that come true. Thank G-d and thank all the wonderful people, we added one more to the sack.