My daughter Skye and I were on our way to synagogue on First Night Rosh Hashana
We were running late. And were so busy chatting that I kept going straight, where I should have turned left to get to shul, all of 700 meters away from our home!
On the sidewalk in the dimming light we watched a man fall backwards on to the pavement. We reversed and stopped, then approached him gingerly, not sure if he was a drunken vagrant or someone in sudden distress.
It was the latter. His hand was held up to us beseechingly, and it was twisted enough for us to realise that he was severely handicapped. His crutch lay abandoned at his side, as he motioned to us to open a small cooler bag that sprawled, along with a full size suitcase beside him.
Skye opened it apprehensively, unsure of its contents, only to find amongst the frozen coolers, vials of insulin and other necessities for diabetic use. She went straight into Doctor mode, knowing exactly what to do to assist him in his efforts to stabilize his insulin levels. To our amazement we soon found ourselves communicating with him, on a clipboard he kept in the side pocket of his suitcase.
He was both deaf and mute.
We were both of us, enormously moved by this brave being, who had offered as an oppurtunity to be of service, on the eve of our annual reckoning! In the closing remnants of the year, here then in the darkness of the night, a last minute offering from the universe to do some good in a 'broken' world. It all seemed part of a Divine plan to allow for 'Tikkun Olam', the healing of the world.
We were soon joined by a young Muslim couple staying in the flat, on whose driveway our mystery man had fallen, and a good Samaritan, young Ernest, who drove by and stopped to offer asistance. He had helped this extraordinary man before.
So there we all were, a little interfaith gathering attesting to all that is good and true in this creation. What better way to start the New Year!
Soon we had him in our car, and having discovered that he had missed his lift to the Transkei, we stopped off at an ATM to draw several hundred rand to pay for the 1500km journey home. We dropped him off at the station. And with a thankful nod of his head he was gone...
The Shul service was by now over, and so we made our way to the friends who were hosting us for the festival dinner, excited to share with them and the rest of our family, the night's events.
Pikuach Nefesh... Part Two.
Mr Nielson better known as Sid, was waiting with Erin and Steele for us outside our friend's home. They were anxious to hear what had kept us from attending shul, and as moved as we were by our tale of the events of the night.
And so we took our seats at the table filled with a sense of purpose and synchronicity.
I began to tell my friends what had happened, when one said it all sounded very familiar. Some six months ago, she had attended to just such a man who had fallen on the sidewalk in her suburb of Greenpoint. He too was deaf and mute. A diabetic. And a student who had just written an exam. He had 'told' us as much in writing on his clipboard.
And as with us, she had driven him to the station assisting him with 400 Rand to pay for the journey home, since he had missed his lift.
Skye remarked that she had been amazed at his ability to draw insulin into the syringe in his weakened state. His responce to our kindness had also been very casual, as if such acts were commonplace and taken for granted.
A little cloud drew over the evening for an instant.
Then Skye and I looked closer, and the night was just as beautiful.
His motivation had still given us a chance to open our hearts to a stranger.
And who were we to judge a man, whose daily circumstance begin and end with struggle, to have discovered a means to his daily bread.
In fact, if anything, right now somewhere in the city, he may be giving others a chance to do some good.