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human kindness

06/14/2023 09:30:03 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Kindness, especially from strangers, is not something that we are accustomed to receiving. Even though Blanche DuBois uttered the immortal words “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” in Tennessee Williams “A Streetcar Named Desire”, that is most likely not the norm for most of us. While it is certainly a bit of a utopian dream to hope that one day kindness will rule human behavior, it remains a bit remote. At least I thought so until last week.

I needed to have the snow tires removed from my car, but had not found the time to schedule this. Since there was no court last Friday( the trial takes a break every two weeks on Friday), I scheduled the tire change. As I pulled into the bay, the attendant first asked my current mileage, which I provided.  He then asked why I was here, and I responded that I had not yet found the time to change my snow tires, and today was the first day that I was able to schedule an appointment. He noticed the clergy card on my dashboard and we shared a bit of humor together. When asked, I told him that I was the Rabbi of the Tree of Life. The smile drained out of his face. He said “God bless you Rabbi” and a number of other supportive comments. I shook his hand as I exited my car, and checked in at the service desk.

When the car was ready, I went to the desk with my credit card in hand and asked “How much?”. The attendant said that there was no charge, that it had been taken care of. I think I said “Wow!” and followed up by asking whom might I thank.  The attendant answered that he did not know if the person wished to be known and said “Please wait a moment”. A moment later the first attendant that I had met walked in.  He told me that after I walked into the service area, he called his church and told them of our exchange. The church took care of me.  Me, a total stranger, but yet not a stranger to them. Truth be told, I’m not a stranger to many whom I do not know.

I shook the man’s hand and thanked him, and asked if I could get the church’s name and address.  He said that it wasn’t necessary. They just wanted to do this for me, and once again “God bless you Rabbi”. I left the service department speechless and grateful, but not for the reasons you might think. It was not about the savings; it was the grace of Lovingkindness. I was just uplifted by this moment.

While I might be an immigrant to Pittsburgh, total strangers recognize me and regularly ask how I am or how the congregation is doing. Pittsburgh has taken to heart the Biblical commandment to “remember the stranger”. Their actions, like this incredibly kind and generous deed, have taught me that Pittsburgh is one big family, and I have been welcomed as such. When a family member is in need, or troubled, the family takes care of its own. This is just one of the unique things that makes Pittsburgh special. I am grateful for this moving act, and for this gentleman, and through him his church, reminding me how important taking care of the stranger is. While I am not Blanche DuBois, I am so very moved by the kindness of strangers.

Sun, June 23 2024 17 Sivan 5784