Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gratitude.

On Sunday, Myfanwe, Norbert and I participated in delivering Passover food boxes to poor, elderly Jews living in Uptown. Participants were drawn from the membership of the neighborhood Jewish Community Center, but all of the families that participated were families from Norbert's school.

There were a couple of humorous moments -- like when the desk clerk explained why Mrs. Horowitz didn't answer her door. Apparently she was at church. I wanted to say "With a name like Horowitz?", but before I could, the clerk added, "They have a nice snack after."

There were also some serious, thought provoking moments. Norbert was off with one of his classmates and her mom delivering boxes, so Myfanwe and i struck off on our own. We were delivering to separate apartments on the same floor. I knocked on a door and Mr. Geflotzenplotzer* asked from behind the closed door who it was. I explained who I was, and, after a pause, he timidly opened the door. He was a thin, frail old man wearing only urine-soaked underwear, sitting in a wheelchair.

I asked him if he would like me to unpack the box for him, which I did. He was very happy for the jar of gefelte fish and the horseradish. He likes horseradish. I put the chicken in the freezer, put the produce in the crisper, and stacked the boxes of matzah and the cans where he could reach them. He then apologized for his appearance, explaining that he didn't have anyone to help him get cleaned up and dressed on Sundays.

Without skipping a beat, and in a very matter-of-fact way, I asked if I could help him get cleaned up and dressed. He paused, but not for long, and accepted. I explained to him that my father had had numerous strokes and that for the last 12 years of his life he had been paralyzed on his right side and restricted to a wheelchair. I was confidant I could help him.

As he leaned his old, frail body against my younger, more hail frame something inside me changed. I can't really explain what it was or how I changed, I just know I did. The only thing worse than having to help a stranger off with his urine-soaked underpants is knowing that he had been sitting in them, possibly for hours, without anyone else to ask. As difficult or embarrassing as it might be to find yourself with a naked stranger leaning against you, think how embarrassing it was for him.

After Mr. Geflotzenplotzer was cleaned up and dressed, he thanked me. And I very sincerely told him that no thanks were necessary. And I made it all the way outside his apartment before I started to cry.

*Not his real name.

13 comments:

tiennie said...

Oh my. I'm crying now. Thanks so much for sharing.

Myfanwy said...

Compassion is not a learned behaviour, it is in your soul. Your a kind man.

Alice Teresa said...

Bless you, Aidan.



(Did you get my coffee-knitting planning e-mail?)

anne marie in philly said...

the bigger mitzvah was your tender assistance.

thanks for the soul stirrer, aidan. and may you and your family have a blessed pesach!

Anonymous said...

Oh you are a wonderful man for helping a helpless frail old man. There should be more people like you. I know exactly how you felt and how he felt. I take care of my frail eighty-eight year old mother. Alida
South Africa

Diane said...

Great story and a wonderful act of kindness. Hats off to you Aidan. Isn't it funny how you can start off the day as one person and end up as someone else?

Susan said...

Wow. You're such a mensch. Is there someone at the Jewish Community Center or Federation who can arrange to have someone help this man on Sundays?

Anonymous said...

Dear Aiden ..Would it be possible to find out if the organization has a restricted fund dedicated to this extra Sunday need for its clients? A little extra kindness and its telling has the potential to change one empty day in the life of Mr. Geflotzenplotzer and his peers.

theprofessionalaunt

edie said...

Yep, totally crying. Thank you so much for *being* kindness in the world on this day... what you offered Mr. G. will surely be returned to you ten-fold. God Bless, Aiden.

Leslie said...

Mitzvah - may you only receive millions of them for being one to that man. Blessings on you and yours.

Chicago Jen said...

Aidan, I have always known from your posts (yes, even when you're hoppin' mad), that you are a good soul. Three times Thank You.

Cheri said...

For years I worked as a nurses aid in a home for the multiply handicapped (I moonlighted as...a nurses aid for pretty much anyone who needed it). My dear Aiden you are so right, it changes something inside of you. You are a good and kind man.

Anonymous said...

Dear Aidan,
I came to your blog today via Ravelry, and I have to tell you that you have touched me deeply with your story today.