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Beauty Beyond Style

Beauty Beyond Style

Little life and death decisions.


It was the type of situation that could have gone either way. A thoughtless, hurtful comment could have crushed a person's self-worth, while a warm response could have raised it considerably. It was up to Kayla Rosen to decide what she'd rather do.

We were at the housewarming party of a friend of mine. I had offered to come early to help set up and serve.

The party did not start on time. Although it was called for six-thirty, at seven-o'clock, only a handful of women were there.

The five or six women were all well-to-do, beautifully dressed, and in their mid-forties. Except for one woman, that is. She was older than everyone else, and from her simple, shabby suit and fake jewelry, it was pretty obvious that she didn't have much money.

Mrs. Greenbaum, the "odd one out," was a quiet, shy person, who didn't like crowds. The other women stood around chatting, while Mrs. Greenbaum stood uncomfortably alone, waiting for her own friends to arrive.

It isn't pleasant to have a bunch of people talking and laughing around you, while you're standing to the side. Mrs. Greenbaum must have felt embarrassed. Pasting a bright smile on her face, she walked up to the group. In as casual a tone as she could muster, she addressed Kayla Rosen.

"Kayla, you and I are both wearing brown jackets. I guess that means we have to sit next to each other!" She gave a hesitant smile, clearly unsure whether she had said the right thing or not.

For a second, there was silence. The other women in the group tried to hide their smiles, as they contemplated Mrs. Greenbaum's little joke. Both she and Kayla Rosen were wearing brown jackets, but there was no similarity whatsoever between the two jackets! Kayla's was stylishly cut, with rhinestone buttons and fur on the cuffs and collar, and the other woman's was faded, outdated, and plain.

And for Kayla to sit next to Mrs. Greenbaum for the entire meal? Aside for vaguely knowing each other, the two women had nothing in common!

In the midst of setting down soda bottles on a table in the back of the room, I froze. Even from where I was, I could see the color begin to rise in Mrs. Greenbaum's cheeks, as she and the others waited to hear Kayla Rosen's response.

Please, I silently begged Mrs. Rosen. Watch what you say! Look how uncomfortable the poor woman is! Don't embarrass her further!

Mrs. Rosen looked Mrs. Greenbaum right in the eye. "Even if we weren't wearing the same color," she said, "I'd love to sit next to you."

Mrs. Greenbaum's face cleared like the outdoors after a fresh rain. She smiled, but this time there was no uncertainty to her smile.

I couldn't help notice how beautiful Mrs. Greenbaum looked with the huge smile adorning her face. And I couldn't help thinking to myself how beautiful Mrs. Rosen must look before God. And it had nothing to do with the style or material of her jacket.

September 10, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 14

(14) Anonymous, September 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Thank you for the beautiful piece of inspiration, its the little stories like this which make me think three times before I'm in a moment where I need to decide what's the right way to act, keep up the great work

(13) andrea levy, September 18, 2005 12:00 AM

a story just like this...a mitzvah someone did me...

we are newly more observant than we used to be, but not yet fully shomer shabbat. my husband lost his job and until he gets a new one, we need to drive to shul. recently, we started keeping shomer shabbat in our house, but driving to shul.

one day, a child from a very observant family asked my daughter if she drives on shabbat. my daughter, who is only 6 hesitated, knowing that we are not supposed to, but that we do.

another mother, having overheard the conversation piped up with 'dont be silly, she is too young to drive!' and with that ended the conversation.

when i heard this, i laughed my head off, but also made a point to tell the mother how grateful i was that she spared my daughter the discomfort of having to answer that question herself. may it be god's will that someday we can answer it with a solid 'no, we don't drive on shabbat.'

(12) Anonymous, September 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Beautiful Story

What a lovely story. You must be a wonderful teacher, Malkie.

(11) Anonymous, September 14, 2005 12:00 AM


Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us. It brought tears to my eyes. We so often see the people who are ashamed by the way they have to dress. It is so touching to see that someone had the tact to make her feel comfortable with who she is and the genius to do it in such a refined way. Thanks again.

(10) Anonymous, September 12, 2005 12:00 AM

should be required reading for all children and teens

In a world where many people only want to know "what's in it for me", here is a refreshing story of a woman that knew that "what's in it for me" could only be "better" when she reached out to help another person.

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