“Seriously, WHY do all of these people find you??? You’re like a magnet!” exclaimed a Facebook friend this week in a comment on one of my posts.
It was one of the many posts I have written over the past several years which deal with the slices-of-life of Israeli society. “This would only happen to you,” is another comment which I periodically get after writing about an incident which might seem bizarre or too good to be true.
I am not a magnet. Well, maybe I do carry a magnet. People are not drawn to me. I draw myself to them. I am drawn to my belief that good deeds are, in fact, what make the world succeed.
Perhaps we couldn’t exist without the politics. I still thrive on reporting about that. Ultimately, however, if there is no good to serve as the basis of our existence, our world is doomed. That’s what I believe. That’s what I’m out to prove.
I will give just a couple of examples of why these endearing incidents seem to happen only around me.
These two cases in point were very recent, during the current lockdown in Israel. There are checkpoints on various roads. Equipped with a letter authorizing essential travel on my part, I’ve been able to get where I have to go.
The delays can be annoying but I’ve tried to make the best of them and have learned that others have also acted positively, even showing kindness to those whose job it is to stop the many vehicles and prepare for potential confrontations.
At one roadblock, a policewoman asked me from where I was traveling and where I was going, the usual questions that get asked at these checkpoints.
But then I asked her: “What’s it like to interact with so many people during the course of a day, day after day, during a very intense period like this?”
Her response: “You know what? Even though getting stopped at a roadblock can delay someone who has to get to an essential workplace, many motorists take it in stride.”
She thought for a moment and then added: “…including one driver who offered me a candy basket.” Traffic was relatively light at the moment, so I guess that — enjoying the conversation — she decided to carry on with our chat.
“Do you like chocolate?” she asked me.
Me: “I only eat bittersweet.”
Policewoman: “Oh, another one of those people who only eats healthy? No one seems to like milk chocolate. Next time I get a gift, I’ll make sure it’s bittersweet,” she said with a smile that contorted her mask around her mouth.
“I’d appreciate that,” I replied, contorting my lips back at her as she sent me on my way, wishing that she could have reciprocated my friendliness by giving me a chocolate bar.
And here’s one more example of how I do my best to make sure that there are heartwarming stories to tell on social media.
An older couple was taking a stroll. A police car pulled up.
Referring to the lockdown restriction of staying within a kilometer of your residence, a policewoman stuck her face out the car window and asked the couple: “You’re staying close to home?”
Wife: “Yes, we live right there.” She pointed down the street.
Policewoman: “You need anything?”
Wife: “We’re fine. Thank you.”
I posted this story on Facebook, adding that after the wife tried to assure the policewomen that they were fine, the husband said that, in fact, he could use a beer. The policewoman obliged. “It’ll be at your door at six o’clock,” she said.
What I didn’t post on Facebook is that before the man blurted out his request for beer, I could tell that he wanted to say something and I challenged him. “You look like you want to ask for something,” I said.
“Yes, beer,” he replied to both me and the policewoman. It was funny. Even his wife, who was appalled that her husband had taken up the policewoman’s kind offer, seemed to be enjoying the moment.
I could have just walked right past them, and there would have been no story to tell about something as normal but also very different as your average guy wanting a beer and probably for decades going to a grocery store to get a six-pack without a thought, but now feeling apprehensive about paying an extra visit to the store because of a health crisis.
At a time of so much tragedy in the world, not being able to get a beer seems so trivial. But this, too, is life. A kind policewoman was making an offer. And, yes, egged on by yours truly, this man verbalized a simple wish in response.
I hope that these two examples provide a glimpse into how, when we take seemingly mundane circumstances and delve deeper, we can all use our magnets to uncover the good, the beautiful, and the funny that people have to offer, and not only the bad and the ugly.
In response to my story about the policewoman at the checkpoint, a friend wrote me: “How did you see her contorted smile if she was wearing a mask?”
Indeed, I look forward to the day when we’ll able to take off our masks in public and I’ll be able to clearly see the smiles of the people who provide the wonderful stories.