By Rabbi Cassie Kail, Contributing Writer
When I was a teenager, I had a near death experience.
I was waiting on a subway platform in New York City during peak hours when my train arrived at the station. I lost my leg and fell between two train cars.
The conductor closed the train door, ready to walk away when a man ran over and pulled me to safety.
I soon found myself in the back of an ambulance, thankful I had survived the ordeal with only bruises and bruises. A stranger saved my life, and I didn’t even know his name.
That day I realized how interconnected our lives really are.
I highly doubt that the person who brought me to a safe place woke up that morning thinking, “I’ll save a life today.”
On the contrary, he had no idea how effective his actions would be. He saw a man in need of help and swung into action. It is one of the most sacred things any of us can do.
He is definitely not alone.
Over the past twenty months, the pandemic has increased homelessness, economic instability, mental health crises and myriad other challenges.
Social workers, health professionals and other service providers were thin even before this crisis, but they have attempted to meet the growing needs of a community in pain. It’s impossible to help everyone, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing their best.
In the days before Thanksgiving, I had the privilege of joining with fellow clergy members and community leaders to provide a lunch of gratitude for each of these service providers.
As honored guests ate delicious food, received praise from government officials, and connected, I asked them to write down something they were most proud of over the past year.
“Vaccination of our community,” wrote one. “Finding people housing,” wrote another.
They spoke of their pride in coming together, serving the community and being called for this sacred purpose.
Seeing the extreme needs of our community, everyone at lunch decided to step up and act. By doing this he brought purity in this world.
I am amazed and inspired by each of them.
He is the one whom Rabbi Lawrence Kushner calls “the Messenger of the Most High”. They perform their functions in sacred oblivion, often, even unknown to themselves. ,
There is no need to be a doctor, social worker or service provider to bring purity to our world.
All that is needed is a willingness to act and be attentive to the needs before us. All it needs is an initiative to spread acts of love and compassion.
Years ago, a friend was in a state of despair. A loved one had died. She lost her job, was going through a devastating break-up and wondered how she could move on.
“I felt all alone,” she said. Then, she went to the Starbucks drive-thru. When she learned that the car in front of her had paid for her order, she was very impressed.
“It was like the universe was telling me that I mattered,” she said. “I felt a wave of love and support swept over me, and I knew that somehow everything would be all right.”
Of course, it took her some time to grieve and heal, but a stranger’s kindness made a difference.
Whether through our professional work, or through everyday interactions, each of us can do our part to bring purity and healing to those around us.
We may never know the full impact of our actions, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
When I was 17, a stranger went out of his way to recognize that I needed help, to act out and save my life. I don’t know his name or have any means of thanking him, but I can pay it forward.
I can take the time to respond to the needs of others with dignity and care. I can spread love and kindness. We all can. After all, these are some of the most sacred things a person can do.