Monthly Archives: December 2017

Grateful for a Mitzvah

photo by Marv

Just recovering from a miserable cold, the day had not started well— 51 degrees inside, heating oil tank empty. Hours later, thanks to the tech providing 10 gallons of fuel, I left home at near sunset to shop for groceries. Ninety minutes later, while placing my bags in the cargo trunk, a man’s voice called out, “Did you know your tire is flat?”

I engage with a lean, dark haired young man pointing to my rear tire. It seemed unbelievable that the day would end like this—a flat tire, out in the cold.

“Do you have someone you can call to fix it?” he asks.

“Yes. I can call Triple A.”

The man’s wife, from the shadows, comments, “You’ll have to wait at least 45 minutes or longer.”

“I can fix it, if you would like,” the man continues.

“He likes to help,” she explains.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Mary and John,” she answers.

“What’s your name?” John asks.


“Faye’s a beautiful name,” he says.

I step up closer, wanting to believe, but needing to check this stranger’s offering. “”Where’s your tire?” he says with a smile. His sincerity is undeniable.

“You’re sure? You really want to do this,” I ask as I push the bags of groceries toward the back. John lifts a panel to lift the tire.

“Oh, good,” I say, “It’s full sized and not a doughnut. Have you fixed many flats?”

“It’s been awhile. I think I can do it. Where’s the jack? Do you have a tool kit?”

I need to think fast, much too fast given how long it’s been since I’ve rummaged in the hidden cargo pockets. I hit gold and retrieve a bulky cloth packet.

John is quick, finds the jack, unties the packet’s ribbon and grabs the lug wrench. After raising the car, he fastens onto a bolt. It does not budge.

“You’re in good hands, not to worry,” Mary says. “I have a quick return,  and will be right back.”

“It’s cold,” John says. “Maybe you should go into the store. I can come get you. Or if you’d like, you can sit in my car.”

I’m in the moment, dressed for winter, needing to stay engaged and present. John doubles down. The wrench gives way. Within seconds, he twists all the lug nuts except the last. “Where’s your lug key? Mine’s in my front compartment.”

“Key?  I am clueless.

“It’s round. One lug is locked, for prevention. Otherwise, anyone can lift your tires with a common wrench.”

I search my glove compartment. No luck.

Undaunted, John returns to the packet and locates the lock key.Within minutes, he replaces the tire, stows the tool kit and damaged tire.

Mary, just back, says, “I knew he could help. He loves to pay it forward.”

“Yes,” John continues, ”I love to help. But most people say no. I’m so grateful you let me step up.”

His words touch me deeply. “In my faith, we call it a Mitzvah,” I say.

“What does Mitzvah mean?” John asks.

“A way of giving, of helping another in need.”

Mary says, “We are joining our friends soon. We’ll tell them John did a Mitzvah.” I assume their friends are Jewish; I’m grateful to deepen their connection. We hug.

John grins, comes towards me, arms open for an embrace. “I love you, Faye. Thank you for letting me help.”

I step into the arms of this generous man and without hesitation say, “ I love you, John.”

To say that John and Mary came into my life at just the right time is an understatement. Mary commented that because she had to return only an item, she had wanted to park close to the door, but John decided, in the moment, to pull in right beside me. Was the fact that I was an elder, on my own, tending to groceries, a fact that drew him to me? Mary had informed me his Mom had died when he was a teen. Their kids in college, I imagined they were close to my kid’s age. Whatever instinct drew him to me on that cold night, I was grateful.








On Kindness


Renah @ Wayne U.
Photo by Marv

When I think about kindness, I think about Renah and Jayne, both felled by polio and wheelchair bound, at a time when I most needed kindness. Twenty years old, a recent transfer from Simmons College, I arrived at Wayne University and made the impulsive decision to move off campus into an untenable roommate situation. Friendless, far from my New England family, I returned to the thirteen-floor, converted hotel dorm in need of a home.

Dressed in a skirt and sweater, knee socks and saddle shoes, I knocked on Renah and Jayne’s door and was greeted by Renah’s welcoming smile. The lilt in her voice, her innate curiosity at my “preppy” attire, tempered my anxiety as I explained that the housing director had suggested I check out their room.

“Sure, we have an extra bed, by the window,” she said, as she gripped the thick rubber wheels of her chair, nodding for me to follow.

“We have a new roomie,” she called out to Jayne, reading in bed, a hand pulley above to lift her to a wheelchair bedside.

I embraced them; they embraced me. The timing was perfect. That year was filled with lessons of gratitude; our day-to-day consideration of one another filled me with ease. We told stories, shared worries. My new friends taught me how laughter can face down hurt.

At least once a week, I would grab the handles of Renah’s chair to walk the block to a storefront restaurant where we joined our little gang for a “real” meal. The wait staff, customers, everyone knew Renah and as her new “preppy” friend from Boston; I was folded in.

Long before the passage of The American Disabilities Act of 1990, there were enormous challenges for the physically challenged student attending a university. Ramps were not a given, nor were elevators in multi-floor buildings.

At her core, Renah was an activist who could look you straight in the eye and compel you to deal straight with any demeaning innuendo or impediment involving her ability to navigate her life. I recall her persistence as she negotiated a third floor change in a classroom location from the third to the first floor so that she could attend an advanced sociology class.

What would she and Jayne make of the “what is” of now—our Trumpean president, a braggart who boasts how women cannot refuse his advances, his reckless leadership? What would they make of the cascade of women truth tellers sharing their stories of male sexual predators stalking and accosting them in the work place?

In my fantasy, Renah would have kicked Harvey Weinstein right where it hurts. A young woman in a hand-driven wheelchair, she learned to be tough to the core to face the unfair and unkind behaviors she encountered.

It is humbling and gratifying to realize all these years later how the lessons of living side by side with two kind and strong-willed women have infused my resolve to stand up and assert, to write and resist the tyranny of entitlement and abuse.