I love getting feedback from my readers. It gives me encouragement to keep writing when I hear that something I wrote resonates with them. Sometimes, however, I get something much better. They tell me that I’m not unique.
Not in so many words, of course, but when they share with me their own experiences of seeing something and taking action, I am thrilled to hear it. I don’t want to be the only one taking notice of the nuances and sensing the subtleties of the universe. My whole mission is showing people the perspective I have so they can find their own perspective on the world and the near-constant messages we get from Hashem.
So I was rather excited recently when a woman recounted to me the following: She was driving on a busy street when she noticed, to her horror, that a blind man was trying to cross the road amidst cars zipping by. She slowed her car and stopped, blocking traffic to protect him, and she saw how he used his cane to feel around for the sidewalk. When she saw him cautiously feeling his way across a grassy patch along the side of the road, she realized with a start that not far from there the slope pitched sharply, and as he traversed it he would likely tumble and roll into oncoming traffic!
She put on her hazard lights and left her car door open so no one would drive around her car and hit her or the pedestrian as she approached the man who seemed to be oblivious to his situation. “Pardon me,” she said gently, “but this is a very busy street. Are you looking for a particular address? Maybe I can help you.”
“I’m fine,” the man demurred. “I’m looking for such-and-such a building, at this-and-this address. It’s the ‘jobs office.’” She offered to walk around the building nearby to see the address and asked him to wait right there. She quickly ran to the other side of the building and informed the fellow that it was not the address he was looking for. “It’s near Party City,” he recalled. She knew where that was, and now came the moment of truth: “Sir,” she said. “It’s not that far from here, but it’s not safe to walk there even with perfect vision. May I please drive you there?”
He thought for a moment and then accepted. She guided him to the car and he entered and buckled up by himself. She went around to the driver’s seat and drove toward the desired location. As she approached, she noticed a handicap-accessible entrance to a building and a few men loitering outside on a smoking break. “Is this the ‘jobs office’?” she asked. When the men answered in the affirmative, she explained that she had someone in her car who wished to enter. They came and assisted the man out of the car and into the office.
She related to me that had she not been going to Costco at that moment, she would not have seen him. “I was in the middle of cooking for a family sitting shiva, after escorting out some guests who had stayed with me for several days because they had no place to go, and for some reason I had it in my head that I had to go that moment to return a case of tissues to Costco because the individual ones were on sale! But now I know why I did have to go right then, or else I would never have seen the fellow. Other drivers just ignored him but I couldn’t do that.”
Someone told her it was very risky to have taken a stranger in her car. She replied that he was taking a bigger risk, being blind and easily taken advantage of. I think both are true, and in there I found a lesson of inspiration.
Sometimes we see things, like this woman did, because we’re supposed to take action. She could have been wary of getting involved as so many of us are, but she realized that if Hashem showed her this man in a perilous situation with an opportunity to help, she was supposed to do just that. It was not blind faith, but the very real knowledge that Hashem runs the world with extreme precision and nothing is coincidence. It was presented to her because it was her mission.
For his part, the man felt he could do it on his own but was unaware of the dangers around him. When someone offered to help, and explained that there were circumstances he didn’t know about, he had to stop trusting himself completely in order to be helped by the kind-voiced woman. This, too, is an important lesson that we may not be as all-knowing as we think we are—because the only One Who is, is Hashem. The message from this fellow is that we need to be willing to trust Hashem and acknowledge that we don’t see the big picture. We have to have faith that Hashem does, however, and He will make sure we’re protected by His messengers.
Longfellow might have called these “ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,” but we know that people are not meant to simply pass each other by with a brief whistle or blow of a horn. Rather, we should look at others carefully and see how we can help; whether someone needs us to lower a lifeboat, or just throw him a life preserver so he can keep his own head above water. Conversely, we should be open to opportunities to be helped by others, and trust that Hashem will keep sending us what we need even when we don’t realize it ourselves.
By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Jonathan Gewirtz is an inspirational writer and speaker whose work has appeared in publications around the world. He also operates www.JewishSpeechWriter.com, where you can order a custom-made speech for your next special occasion. Sign up for the Migdal Ohr, his weekly PDF Dvar Torah in English. E-mail [email protected] and put Subscribe in the subject.