H e didn’t come on Friday. He will never come again. I am surprised at the sense of loss I feel for someone I hardly knew.

Alex was a meshulach. Every Friday, he would drive his van of poor people around Fair Lawn to collect tzedakah contributions. He always had a smile on his face, he always apologized if he felt he was interrupting me, he always understood if I was in the middle of davening and he had to come back later.

He accepted what I gave him with graciousness. When I gave, I always took care to look not at the money, but at his face, because I wanted him to feel my joy in doing it, to not feel demeaned by taking.

We had brief conversations. Once, he had a prolonged sore throat, and I admonished him to stop smoking. He acknowledged the rightness of that advice, but also the difficulty of following it. I would ask about his son, and he would tell me if he was okay, or if he was worried about him.

He knew when I was sick with cancer, and always seemed concerned about how I felt. “How you feel? Good? Your family? Good? Everything good?” And when I answered yes, he would reply “Baruch Hashem!” with a big, sweet smile.

He shared in my happiness upon the birth of a grandchild, or any joyous family event. And he would add: “You nice lady. You good lady.” He made me feel appreciated; I hope I helped him feel that he mattered.

He would remind me of Rosh Chodesh when he wished me a good chodesh, and he would wish me well before all the Yamim Tovim.

For a long time, I would prepare fruit for all the passengers in his van. After all, my relationship with Alex helped me feel that all his comrades were my guests, and I enjoyed offering them something to ease their long hours traveling. He thanked me, and I knew that with that small gesture, I was treating them with a little more respect.

One Friday he was very concerned about Tzippy, one of his passengers, who had asthma and was having difficulty breathing. I left my Shabbos preparations and led the van to the medical attention center, where Tzippy was treated urgently. Somehow, that experience bound me to Alex — we were partners in saving Tzippy. Subsequently, he would let me know when Tzippy was in Israel visiting her family, I would inquire about her, and he would assure me that she was well.

I once asked Alex why he didn’t get a regular job. He looked at me, then at the van — “But I drive these people…” (excerpted)