As we were walking to Temple this past Shabbat morning a woman pulled over in her car. I was certain that she was about to ask me directions to one of our local schools (People often stop to ask directions as we walk to Temple). Instead, I was surprised when she jumped out of the car with a Bar Mitzvah invitation in hand and asked whether we would like a ride to Temple. Apparently she just dropped her son off at the Temple moments earlier to attend the Bar Mitzvah, and was now driving back home. She went on to apologize for having passed us earlier and not stopping to offer us a ride when she saw us. She now offered to go out of her way and turn around to transport us back. We thanked her warmly for her consideration, and explained our custom of walking. But the whole rest of the way we smiled and were warmed by this touching random act of kindness.
One of the many gifts that my father, of blessed memory left me was his gift of kindness. No one ever had a bad word to say about this man, and he was always helpful to anyone in need. So my colleague Rabbi David Wolpe’s story about one of the many gifts his father left him really touched home. David’s father (also a rabbi) left him a small box of a few hundred index cards with quotes, stories and teachings. David shared one from a James Hodgson from Salt Lake City. The clipping read:
I was lounging in front of the TV watching a western when dad came in from shoveling snow. He looked at me and said, ‘In 24 hours you won’t even remember what you’re looking at now. How about doing something for the next 20 minutes that you’ll remember 20 years from now and enjoy every time you think about it?’
“What is it?” I asked.
“Well son, there’s eight inches of snow on old Mrs. Woodbury’s walk” he said. “Why don’t you see if you can shovel it and get back without her knowing?”
I did it in 15 minutes. She never knew who had done it. And Dad was right – I’ve enjoyed it every time I’ve thought about it.
Last winter after a day of unusually heavy snowfall I got back home and found that my driveway had been secretly shoveled in my absence. (I later learned that it was members of my own congregation and their sons who decided to do this for me out of the goodness of their hearts – and I am still warmed by their kindness).
As we begin the New Year and begin to celebrate the festival of Sukkot, the Festival of ultimate joy, I hope you will join me in looking for acts of random kindness that we can do this year and that will remain in our memories for a lifetime.
I wish you a joyous celebration and the satisfaction of performing many good deeds.