This past weekend I was inspired.
I witnessed someone close to me in action, someone who has dedicated his life to doing chessed, good deeds, and he deserves to have his story told before the new year.
This Friday I was honored to participate in what has become a weekly Friday ritual in Queens, New York. One man realized that local bakeries and groceries were baking and preparing enough challahs (sabbath bread) and food in order to accommodate every potential customer and more, and inevitably being left with many products which would not be worthy to sell the following week. This man jumped into action by redistributing these same leftovers to poor families which may otherwise not be able to afford the necessities and surely not the occasional sweets and pastries that now accompany them.
We delivered sushi, rugelach, challahs, cakes and more and sent 176 challahs to a warehouse freezer to be kept fresh until the following Friday when they can be distributed across the borough. This started with one guy with a nice idea and a few challahs. The weekly operation in this neighborhood now includes an average of 10 volunteers, 2 different bakeries, and a grocery store along with countless satiated parents and children sitting around their shabbos tables with smiles on their faces.
The next day, shabbos afternoon, I was privileged to walk with the same man to the local hospital to accompany him on his weekly shabbos afternoon trip to visit ALL of the Jewish patients in the hospital, no matter what their affiliation, just to wish them well, a good shabbos and to “leave this hotel ASAP because the room service is better elsewhere.”
This same man also volunteers his time to keep the books of Hatzalah of Queens, a volunteer first-responders’ and ambulance core, in line with state requirements and has been told that he is the reason this wonderful organization is still afloat.
He has rightfully been dubbed the “tzaddik” (righteous man) by many of his friends, but sees himself as nothing more than someone just trying to do his part. His part is enormous and the good deeds he happily does for his friends and family on a daily basis are countless. The amount of smiles, joy and full bellies this person delivers to others on a weekly basis are each individually worthy of being lifetime goals for other, less “professional” people.
If only the world held this to be the norm. If only the world had more “professionals” like this one. This man is a professional performer of altruistic kind acts.
When visiting the hospital this past shabbos, this man validly assessed and remarked that his visits serve as weekly reminders of all we have to be thankful for. The ability to see, breathe, eat, walk, smile, laugh, be surrounded by friends and loved ones etc. It should not take a visit to one of the most depressing places for each of us to realize the good we are blessed to have in our lives. It doesn’t take going to your favorite vacation spot or concert for you to remember all of the bad you may have in your life. We all feel quite comfortable complaining on a daily basis. Why should it not be reversed? Do you have running water? Food on your table? Maybe even air conditioning?
This new year, regardless of religious affiliation, each one of us can strengthen our relationship with God and all those around us by just realizing what we have and being thankful for it. Then, and only then, can we altruistically take upon ourselves to lead lives a fraction as chessed-filled as my uncle.
Shana Tova and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year to you all.