I’ve been a bit frustrated lately by the poor customer service I’ve been experiencing lately, starting with an inability to get an appointment for Azi’s surgery for 6 weeks, to the oven repair company that first kept pushing off my appointment, and then declined to service my oven altogether, even before they saw it. But yesterday I experienced two remarkable acts of human decency, or, more accurately, I was blessed to meet two strangers who restored my faith not only in mankind, but specifically in Israeli mankind.
As you may know if you’ve been reading my blog, I have a rather long commute to work (fortunately, it’s only one day a week). After a long day at the office and a long commute round trip, there is nothing I want more than to get home from the train station as quickly as possible – something which isn’t always possible when you have to tremp (hitchhike) home.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to spot someone I recognized peripherally from my neighborhood, who agreed to give me a lift home. I was so relieved! As we walked to his car, he decided to call his wife, who surprised him with the news that she had gone to visit relatives near the train station. And so, at the last minute, she asked him to join her there, rather than going home. Needless to say, I was devastated (but of course, I told him I’d be fine and I figured I’d make it home some way or other!). Since I’d already walked in the opposite direction of the trempiada (hitchhiking station), I asked him to drop me off at a corner where I’ve sometimes seen people trying to hitch a ride. It was dark, and the ‘corner’ was actually a traffic circle where Israeli drivers prefer to speed through, rather than slowing down. My ‘neighbor’ offered to stay with me until I got a ride, an offer which I naturally declined. I turned my back to the car and held out my pathetic sign which advertised where I was trying to go, figuring that he’d driven away, as eager to see his own kids as I was to see mine. Let’s just say…he didn’t. He stayed with me until I got a ride, just so I wouldn’t be alone in the dark at night. I was so impressed (and also grateful)!
Three people stopped for me within the first 5 minutes, but the first two were only going halfway home, and I was afraid to go to a place I didn’t know. Still, I was impressed by their offers to help. The third driver wasn’t totally sure where he was going, but said it was to one of my neighboring communities, so I got in. Needless to say, the mere fact that anyone stops to pick up a stranger on the side of the road is truly admirable. But this driver was especially wonderful. We chatted the whole way home, and I told him about my long journey, and my daughter’s birthday, and a whole range of other things. When we arrived in the area, I told him to pull over so I could hop out near the next trempiada. He surprised me by offering to take me all the way home, even though it was out of his way, and it was late, well past dinner time, and his wife was wondering where he was. I tried to decline, but of course, he convinced me in a gentle, chivalrous way, by saying that if his car is kind enough to drive without giving him trouble, he should be kind enough to use it for good deeds.
I can only say that these two men, one of whom whose name I still don’t know, reminded me why I moved here. Because in Israel, strangers aren’t actually strange. In fact, in these parts, helping strangers is the norm – not the exception. Standing on the corner on a cold, dark night may be unpleasant, but at least it’s not scary – and for the most part, neither is getting into a car filled with strangers. I can’t say that I know anyone who has attempted the same feat on a New York street corner.
As a short PS, I’d like to say that last week a friend of mine picked me up from the train – it was also out of his way, and he waited around for 20 minutes while the train was unexpectedly delayed. I was also moved by this gesture, but I remember thinking that in the same situation, I’d also try to show kindness to a friend (then again, this may be easier said than done). Yesterday I was reminded that it’s not enough to only help our friends – by going out of our way for strangers we’re not only helping others, but hopefully inspiring others to become better people. I certainly hope that given the chance I’ll be able to show how I’ve become better due to the kindness of strangers.