Having one’s mood pulled down by the cycle of one terrible news story after another is easy, in fact almost unavoidable. No matter how close to home or how far away you look, scary and depressing conditions can easily throw a shadow over our lives. And looking away and evading reality would be a mistake; we must face life head-on.
But all that negative can obscure the reality of the positive. Recently, I was forcefully reminded that there are good, hard-working, and caring people all around us. In the hope that it will warm your heart as it did mine, I’d like to share my story with you.
About three weeks ago, my husband and I were blessed by the arrival of a new grandson. Thankfully, his family lives only a few hours’ drive away and I was on-site the next day while my husband joined us for Shabbat followed by the brit milah, the circumcision, on the following Monday. He then drove home to return to work while I stayed a few days longer, ostensibly to help out but also because I couldn’t tear myself away from that fleeting newborn smell and feel.
Only a few days after I got home, we received a frantic evening phone call from our daughter, telling us that she and her husband were on the way to the emergency room with a two-week-old who was spiking a fever. We stayed glued to the phone for the rest of the night as the baby was subjected to one painful and unpleasant test and procedure after another.
The next morning, I took off for New Jersey once again. This time fear and uncertainty rather than joy accompanied me on every mile. At the best of times, the lure of the freeway doesn’t sing to my heart. I especially dislike the congested roadways in large cities. Hackensack, New Jersey, where I was headed, is a stone’s throw from New York City. I shifted nervously in my seat as the disembodied voice in my phone directed me to keep going forward as the ominous signs above my head warned that the multiple lanes surrounding me led either to the Lincoln Tunnel or the George Washington Bridge, both of which would have me soon entangled in the inescapable labyrinth of New York City traffic rather than remaining in New Jersey.
Things got worse. “Accident ahead. Do you want to be re-routed?” popped up on my car’s electronic map. Well, yes I did, but that re-routing quickly revealed that the new exit I was supposed to take was closed due to a different accident. If you drive this route everyday, you may be chuckling at my “country mouse” emotions, but this final fifteen minutes of the drive, covering only a few miles, was rather tense.
Eventually, I exited in Hackensack and drove up to a hospital with numerous campuses and entrances. I had no idea where to go. Enter angel number one. I pulled over and called out to a construction worker passing by, asking him where I could find the mother and child building that I was seeking. This kind man took the time to tell me to ignore the confusing signs and instead he gave me simple directions that led me to exactly the right place.
As I pulled into the parking garage, I overshot the ticket-dispensing machine and stopped at the booth. While the question I asked, “Am I in the right place for the pediatric intensive care?” was simple, it was accompanied by my bursting into tears and babbling that my grandson was there.
I must have arrived at a shift change, because there were two attendants in the booth. The young man responded, “Yes, and you need to get a ticket,” pointing to the machine I had ignored. His companion, an angel in the guise of an older woman, came out of the booth and squeezed my arm, saying, “I’m a grandmother too. It will be all right.” She kept uttering soothing words until I composed myself at which point she walked over and pulled my ticket for me, handing it to me along with instructions of where exactly to park so that I would be near the correct elevator. Within a few minutes, I was embracing my daughter and the baby.
By the grace of God, while the baby did have viral meningitis and needed to stay longer in the PICU, his mother was allowed to stay with him full-time while his father and I traded off being with them or with the two older boys at home. As I write this, baby Eli, thank God, is home and thriving.
During this ordeal, the kindness of two strangers nourished my soul. And not only mine. When I left the hospital, the younger attendant was on duty. I think that he too benefitted from his co-worker’s example, as he recognized me, asked about the baby, and wished me a safe and pleasant drive home. He not only collected the parking fee; he made a human connection. His partner’s mentorship had taught by example that this job could be a means not only to get a paycheck, but an opportunity to serve and sustain others. And this kind woman’s generosity of spirit reminded me not to succumb to the drumbeat of pessimism and gloom.
New Year, New You!
We are nearing the beginning of Jewish year 5782, as well as students and families are headed back to school for a new year. Chart a fresh course for your life with journaling challenges from Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin. They willguide you through a year’s worth of building an improved life through consistent, step-by-step action.
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