How do we keep our world intact when it feels as if everything we’ve known is falling apart?

Finding ourselves under lockdown, anxious and confused about all the unrest and illness can bring us to a place of sadness. There is uncertainty mixed with grief. We worry about our future, our children’s future. We worry about our country.

Amidst all the chaos we have the power to bring light.

King David says it best: “The world is built through kindness.” When the universe around you is falling down you have the ability to raise it up. Compassion becomes a mighty force of strength that transforms sorrow into joy. Every time you connect with another soul you create a link of unity. Hope for the future is born.

Friday afternoon, I was about to turn off my computer to get ready for Shabbos. I noticed an email that had popped into my inbox. The subject intrigued me. “Touching base. It’s been over 40 years”.

I began to read the message.

Slovie,

I don’t know if you remember me. We went to camp together and I’m pretty sure we haven’t spoken since then.

Anyway, while quarantined, my husband started looking through old papers. I found the attached card you sent me some 43 years ago.

I don’t remember the incident. However the fact that you sent me a card, and I kept it, shows how much the Hakaras Hatov (gratitude) meant to me. I thought you would enjoy seeing a card that you and your father jointly wrote.

Quick 40+ update. I’m married for 41 years, thank God blessed with kids and grandchildren. I would love to meet you and say hi if you ever come to my neighborhood. You are always invited if you need a place to stay.

Have a nice Shabbos

The letter was signed along with a phone contact.

And there below was a sight that took my breath away.

A photo attachment of a New Year card in my teenaged scrawl along with my father’s bold handwriting. I had no recollection of the card or the incident but seeing my father’s distinct script brought me back to being my ‘Daddy’s little girl’. I read and reread my father’s words and then my own, and got a picture of the story. My heavy trunk needed schlepping. It was the last day of camp and everyone was busy with their own stuff. This one girl stopped whatever she was doing and helped us lug the trunk and duffel bag to my father’s car. Before Rosh Hashanah I had sent her a thank you note. What made me now stop and pause were my father’s words at the bottom of the card.

You have recently fulfilled the mitzvah of ‘hakem takem immo’ (helping one lift their burden) by helping to carry Slovie’s trunk. Thank you. May you be written and inscribed for a good new year.

Rabbi Jungreis

I felt a tear slide down my cheek.

Besides feeling as if I had received a hug from above after all these years, I could not believe that my father had actually taken the interest and the time to add to my teenage letter. It struck me what a force of light he must’ve been for me growing up, in subtle ways I could not even appreciate at the time. What I had taken as simply ordinary was in truth extraordinary.

I called the number and we reconnected. We reminisced, caught up and wished each other a Good Shabbos. And I was touched to my very core.

It was not just a young girl on a hot summer day who had taken the time to stop what she was doing, see the need, and help me and my father. At this moment the kindness took on a new life of its own.

43 years later, that young girl who is now a grandmother stopped what she was doing and returned my father’s words back to me. Greater than carrying my loaded trunk was her carrying the load in my heart; missing my father while trying to make sense of the world we live in. Once again she stopped and thought of me, not even realizing the great impact her message would make.

We are all feeling vulnerable. Connecting with others unlocks the constraints we are enduring. Knowing that we have/had parents, friends and family who love us, care for us, and watch over us empowers us as we grope with the darkness.

We all have the ability to reconnect with someone now and create a moment of kindness.

Think of someone who has impacted your life. It can be someone from long ago like a third grade teacher you’ve never forgotten, a mentor, an aunt or uncle who used to take you on family trips, or a friend who had been there for you but you’ve lost touch. Think of the person who helped you get your first job or invited you for a Shabbos that ignited a spark within.

Take out a moment from your day and find the time to say thank you. Reconnect and build a bridge between souls.

Now think of the people in your life whom you take most for granted. Your parents, your grandparents, your family, or good friends. You know they will be there for you. You know you’ve gone through challenges and strains; maybe you had words and encounters that hurt. But you’ve also discovered the power of friendship, of loyalty and love. When there was no one else to sooth your pain they had listening hearts; a balm for your soul. You have stories that bond. Memories and private jokes that only the two of you share.

Take out a moment from your day and find the time to say thank you. Reconnect and build a bridge between souls.

We combat darkness with light, desperation with hope, and anguish with consolation.

Let us build our world through kindness.

(And thank you R. for taking the time to reconnect and bringing me solace and joy.)