A cat, a truck stop, a butler, and life

Down At The Triple-T Truck Stop

Years ago in one of my books, I re-told a story I had read about in the newspaper. It was about a certain Ira Morris, who owned a truck stop in Arizona called the Triple-T. The story interested me for two reasons. First of all, I had once been a truck driver. For 10 months during 1972-1973 I drove The Atid-United Synagogue Bookmobile around the country. It was a 29′ machine filled with Jewish books that were sold at – as best as I recall – 134 stops I made.

So I had been in a few truck stops in my day, even though compared to the humongous semis parked to the right and the left of the bookmobile, mine seemed a little bit like a toy. Still, miniature truck or not, I was a trucker and my Mom and Dad were proud that they had raised a kid who had gotten two bachelor’s degrees in four-and-a-half years of college and then a master’s in another couple of years…seven years post-high school in all. They felt good that all that 20th century comparative literature, Bible, and Talmud would serve me well riding high on the interstates.

The second reason had more to do with what made the Triple-T different than other truck stops. Mr. Morris had added two elements no one else had thought of – a rocking chair and a very friendly cat. Both were available to any trucker who might need a special break beyond a standard long-haul driver’s meal and cup of coffee before heading down the road again. They could pick up the kitty, sit in the rocking chair, and relax for as long as they wanted. Clearly, everyone was happy: the trucker, the owner, and, without a doubt, the cat.

Now, years after reading that story, my mind is wandering and I am beginning to wonder – is it possible that this truck driver climbed into the cab less stressed out than he would have been without the break in the rocking chair with a cat on his lap? It’s possible.

Did he drive just a few miles per hour slower, closer to the speed limit, and 20% more carefully because he felt good? Perhaps.

Did the driver stay 27% more awake because – besides the coffee – he was in a good mood? Maybe.

Because the driver was feeling good and that much more awake on the long haul, is it possible that this one driver avoided some obstacle in the road, prevented a jackknife, a pile-up, his dying in a twisted wreck, the deaths of other drivers and passenger? It is entirely possible that all of that didn’t happen.

When the driver got home, did he or she hug and kiss his or her spouse and children differently? Maybe.

Did all of this happen and not happen to this driver? There’s really no way to know for certain, but it is possible.

To two drivers? Possibly.

To 10, 20, 50, 100 during the lifetime of a cat? Quite possibly.

How many more heartbeats were added to the world’s total? Billions upon billions.

Grand total, how much did the rocking chair and 14 years of cat food cost?

You save one life, you save the world.

Joe The Butler

Years ago in one of my books, I re-told a story I had read in the newspaper. It was about a certain Joe Lejman who used to dress up as a butler and serve in a local shelter for victims of domestic violence. I thought it was a brilliant idea. The article I had read was a short blurb, so there was only one incident-moment that the reporter chose to relate. I had hoped for more, but, in retrospect, and with years to reflect, I understand the reporter’s wisdom. The incident was The Incident, the one that would teach us almost everything we needed to know about Joe Lejman and his marvelous Mitzvah.

As it happened, one day, Joe had finished serving a meal for the residents, then poured the coffee. He poured for one woman, and then lit her cigarette for her. She began to cry. She cried because she told Joe that this was the first time she could remember that anyone had done something nice for her.

Now, years after reading that story, my mind is wandering and I am beginning to wonder —

Is it possible that this woman regained every shred of her lost self-respect because of Joe Lejman’s single act of unadulterated caring and radiant goodness? It’s possible.

Did she then tell the social workers she had emerged from despair, regained her energy, and wanted to go job hunting the next day? She might have.

Did she get a job, give the appropriate portion of her first and every subsequent paycheck to Tzedakah, do homework with her kids at night, and help get them through high school and into college? Perhaps.

Did the children then go to college, graduate, get jobs, give the appropriate percentage of their first and every subsequent paychecks to Tzedakah, and raise their families to do the same? Maybe they did.

Were the other women in that shelter so inspired by what she did that they did the same, start life all over again because of Joe Lejman? Maybe they did, too.

How many more heartbeats were added to the world’s total? Billions upon billions.

How far out into the entire population of Planet Earth did the concentric circles reach because Joe Lejman, one man, got this crazy idea to be a butler in a shelter for women, who, by all reasonable possibility, should have sunk into lifelong oblivion?

Grand total, how much did Joe spend on a butler’s outfit?

You save one life, you save the world.

About the Author
Danny Siegel is a well-known author, lecturer, and poet who has spoken in more than 500 North American Jewish communities on Tzedakah and Jewish values, besides reading from his own poetry. He is the author of 29 1/2 books on such topics as Mitzvah heroism practical and personalized Tzedakah, and Talmudic quotes about living the Jewish life well. Siegel has been referred to as "The World's Greatest Expert on Microphilanthropy", "The Pied Piper of Tzedakah", "A Pioneer Of Tzedakah", and "The Most Famous Unknown Jewish Poet in America."
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