Two ships… in the day

Am Ordinary Event

The other day something happened. An event that meant little when it occurred, but upon reflection came to mean a great deal. I was entering the post office with a mountain of envelopes balanced precariously in my arms. Taking in the perilous state of my load a girl of perhaps nine offered to help. Touched by her uncommon courtesy I thanked her kindly, but demurred.

On my way out of the Post Office she asked if she could interest me in chocolate covered almonds. I realized at once that she was collecting for a cause and though I had to refuse her non-kosher almonds I made a donation toward her cause. This time it was her turn to be taken aback and she thanked me for the kindness of my free gift.

In the car I felt a little guilty; I was not entitled to her compliment. My generosity was the product of her thoughtfulness not my kindness; I hadn’t given it out of gratitude. Had she not broken through my earlier reverie I wouldn’t even have noticed her. Rather than regard her as a real person with hopes, dreams and aspirations, with needs, interests and concerns I would have viewed her request as a passing nuisance to be avoided. Rather then regard her as a girl so driven by a cause as to stand under the hot sun and solicit perfect strangers I would have regarded her as just another person after my money.

To be fair I think the shoe fits equally on the other foot. Had I not staggered under my load at that moment she might not have regarded me as a real person with a pressing need to mail his letters, but as just another mark; a potential consumer of her product.

Her thoughtfulness changed all that; it turned our causal encounter into a meaningful exchange. I realized that she was a real person and not just a passing prop on the stage of my life. She (hopefully) realized the same about me.

About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at