The Magic Photo Album

The post office in Jerusalem was so full you could barely move, and the heat wave slowed everyone’s stamina to snail speed. The crowd of people were trying to make the best of it, but it was apparent that nerves were getting frayed beyond comfort zones.  I was a visitor and needed to purchase minutes for my Israeli cell phone, which they happened to sell there, and could see plainly that I was in for a long wait. I came to learn that the post offices in Israel are very different than those in the US. A wide variety of functions happen there, such as insurance, banking, tax, and utilities being paid there, just to name a few.

On this particular day, we all slowly inched our way forward, in a very hot and stuffy room, as the air conditioner was not working.  Nonetheless, this did not stop conversations from flying like pizza dough. Of course everyone was speaking in Hebrew…(which I have struggled to master) so I was limited in joining in, however, I nodded and smiled as I watched hands gesturing, and expressions on all the faces.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this were the first time that any of these folks had met, for this is the culture in Israel.

Suddenly someone at the front counter became evidently upset, and began an extremely aggressive attempt to convince the postal worker of their complaint, as his fist pounded on the counter and his voice increased in volume. Everyone became startled by this change in atmosphere, and there was an unfamiliar silence that invaded the room like a thick fog. The postal worker was unrelenting, and the intensity was rising like a roller coaster just before the big free fall.  The faces around me took on expressions of fear mixed with curiosity.

I don’t know what prompted me to do what I did next, but I found myself opening my handbag and pulling out my grandma photo album that I always carry. I opened it up amidst this sudden confusion, and looked at my precious red haired granddaughter, with the cutest little braids you have ever seen dangling from her shoulders. My heart melted, — as usual.  Without missing a beat, I held my album out to the grandpa standing next to me, and gestured with a smile, saying, “My granddaughter, Gingeet.” He looked a bit shocked for half a second, and then his eyes rested upon the picture before him, and suddenly the biggest smile you have ever seen melted his wrinkled face. In joyful agreement, he nodded back at me, and I continued to turn a few more pages for him to admire, naming each grandchild:  “There is Kylee and McKenzie in the snow on Mt. Rainier, and there is Lily and Ari at the Passover Seder, and my daughter Hanna, and my son Aaron who died in a car accident.”

By this time the people surrounding us were looking over our shoulders and smiling back at me as they pointed and nodded at each picture. It wasn’t long and my little photo album was making its way throughout the entire post office, and everyone had smiles on their faces.  Some of them even pushed a tear back from the corner of their eye. The ensuing argument which startled the crowd had finally ceased and no one had even noticed! Our line was moving along at a faster pace now, and soon it was my turn. I, of course, had to show the postal worker a few pictures before purchasing my phone card.  As I was making my way through the crowd to exit, several grandma’s took my hand in theirs while saying goodbye, as if we were family. Everyone smiled and shouted “Shalom – Shalom” as I stepped out into the blinding sun of the streets of Jerusalem.

As I continued with my day, this sudden, unplanned scenario at the post office would not leave my mind.  I thought about what it must be like to live year round in Israel with the threat of a terrorist lurking at any corner. How precious family becomes in such circumstances. I realized that there is no language barrier when it comes to the face of a child, and that even the grumpiest of souls suddenly melt like honey when presented with a snapshot of sweetness.

Ever since that day in the Jerusalem post office, my photo album is ready for action! I continue to spontaneously share it in grocery store lines, waiting rooms, airplanes, and restaurants….and I am always met with the same response of  eager smiles. Not once has anyone rejected an invitation to look upon my pages of sweetness. Quite often this gesture opens a conversation and I find myself also a recipient, as photos of loved ones are shared with me.

We all possess this soothing dose of medicine. There is no need to pop a pill, for no prescription is required. We need not be graduates from the latest meditation-therapy course. We don’t even need to speak a word!

Next time you find yourself in a long line or crowded waiting room (not hard in Jerusalem) remember; An ample dose of happiness awaits the unsuspecting soul!  Just open your little photo album and share the joy!

About the Author
Born and raised in California, I moved to Alaska just out of High School where I worked on a commercial salmon vessel. After several years, I relocated to Washington State where I raised a family and pursued a career in Juvenile Corrections. Upon retiring, I began writing about my travels and experiences. Over the years, my writing has expanded to include many venues and topics, from the more personal hardships of my life to the more whimsical children's stories. My journalistic stories have been published in newspapers, on-line sites, as well as included in printed books such as "Chicken Soup for the Soul" and "The Coffee House Chronicles". I have recently enjoyed more public interaction through my writing of "spoken word" at local Jerusalem gatherings.
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