It was one of those times when I wondered, “What did I get myself into?”
I had agreed to speak atCampNageelawhere my daughter Shifra volunteers, a place to help girls from “spiritually underprivileged” homes rediscover their Jewish heritage. The girls experience Shabbos and Yiddishkeit and every time I visit or come to speak I never cease to be inspired by both the campers and the staff. The campers grow in mitzvah observance and the staff grows by giving and inspiring. A real win-win.
However, as Tisha B’Av, and all the preparation that entails for me, was approaching, I questioned the wisdom of my decision to say yes, yet again. It’s a 2.5-hour drive, each way, for a 45-minute talk. But I’d given my word, so off my wife and I went to Woodbourne.
As usual, I was not disappointed. The campers’ pure thirst for knowledge and their sincere desire to grow and become more committed never fails to inspire me, and the dedication of the staff never fails to instill in me a sense of pride in our own frum kids who dedicate their time to others.
The speech went well (at least from my side of the lectern) and I was pleasantly pleased when each and every girl personally came over to thank me for coming to speak.
I appreciated their appreciation.
My wife and I then stopped at a nearby kosher restaurant for a light dinner before heading back to the city.
As we were preparing to leave, a busboy approached the table and with a smile said, “Looks like you’re ready for some clean up.” He cheerfully stacked the plates and cups and took them away. He then returned with a wet rag and wiped down the table. I couldn’t help noticing his pleasantness and his smile and I made a point of thanking him and wishing him well. He replied, “You’re welcome,” and I once again thanked him for his service. He then said, “Can I ask you a favor?” What favor could this man want from me? “What can I do for you?” I asked him, curious.
“I’m going through a hard time now,” he said. “My mother just died and that was really rough on me. Can I ask you that the next time you go to synagogue, you say a prayer for me? My name is Kenny Henderson and I really could use G-d’s help right now.”
I looked at this kitchen worker who spends his day cleaning up other people’s messes. And I thought, “He’s going through a rough time and what is his primary thought? What is his first line of defense? He asks me to pray to G-d for him! When problems come up in my life, how often is that my first thought? How often do I forget that He and He alone is the true source of all comfort and strength?’
I looked at Kenny in his stained apron and sweaty uniform. And I said, “Yes, I will say a prayer for you; and thank you; you have no idea how you helped me today.”
He looked at me somewhat quizzically, and said, “Well, I don’t know how I helped you. But have a good day.”
The reasons for my trip had just gotten even clearer.