Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out and about

Today, the 19th of Tammuz, 5768, was a good day. I'm usre you're all thrilled to know that. This morning we drove up to Sharon, CT, and dropped off a "Think Jewish" by a sleeping patient in the hospital there.
Next we went to New York, and then came right back to Connecticut and New Milford. Yossi and I went to visit a patient (yes, I remember his name, and yes, i won't be writing it here; there's a thing call privacy, you know) in the ICU, and turns out we had to talk to his nurse before gaining admittance. The reason for our little chat is that it was recently (this morning) confirmed that he has an antibiotic-resistant virus, MRSA, and we'd therefore have to take a couple of precautions while visiting. We had to wear hospital gowns and latex gloves, and we weren't supposed to touch him, which meant that unfortunately we couldn't put on Tefillin with him.
Nevertheless, we had a very nice visit. He's in the hospital for emphysema, which was caused by 45 years of smoking. He told us, "I remember a Lucky Strike commercial from my childhood that went, 'If you have any respiratory problems, smoke Lucky Strikes.' No one knew back then." In fact, he's pretty young; a Vietnam veteran as it turns out. I remember receiving an email that went through all the things that kids did back in the day, and how most of them grew up and lived happy lives. While that's true, it's also true that people did a lot of things back then which literally shortened their lifetimes. It's also scary to think that we're also probably doing things nowadays which have a lot of negative potential down the road.
After talking about health we got onto his family, including his twelve year old son's upcoming Bar-Mitzvah, and his fervent desire to be able to attend. When you've been hanging around seniors for a week, you begin to understand how very important family is; without them, we're lost.

This point was made very clear by our next host, a sweet old lady in Bantam, whose husband has only recently passed away. She smiled our whole meeting, except when she said, "I miss him." I'm just 21, and I really don't know how to respond. I'm not sure that any amount of training can teach you how to help someone deal with the loss of a loved one. Until you've crossed the bridge yourself, how can you help others make their way over? I translated Kaddish for her, and explained the Jewish concepts of life, death, and resurrection.

Our next hostess was another kindly old woman in Morris, who started our conversation by observing that, "I'm a product of a mixed marriage." Yossi and I looked at each other, not quite knowing what to say, when she continued, "My mother was a Litvak, my father a Galicianer." They came to America well before the war, and her family has been living here in the US ever since. One thing which she very pointedly asked me was, "Are you happy with the direction you've chosen in life, with your decision to become a Rabbi?" I answered, "I think so." I said this, and not just a simple "yes", because the truth is that it's impossible to know what's going to happen in the future. A friend of mine recently asked me, "What are my chance of getting Shlichus (real, married, for-life with bills to pay Shlichus)?" First I told him that if he really wanted it, he could get it, because, as the Talmud says, "Nothing stands in the way of desire"; I then had a brainwave and said, "Truth is, I can't tell you what's going to be in five years. I don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow!"
She then told us that she was very happy to see young people with direction in life. "So many people," she said, "have no idea where they're coming from or where they're going to." I didn't give her the whole shpiel I wrote out above, but her point is still valid. Even if I don't know the future, I can still hazard an educated guess. Many people can't even do that.
We also learned a lot about the non-Orthodox community here in Litchfield. She told us that they have a reconstructionist temple, which she attends, though it doesn't have a Rabbi, just a spiritual leader, a very nice girl from New York. Our hostess said, with a twinkle in her eye, "She got married a short while ago-" "Mazel Tov", I interrupted, only to hear the rest of the sentence, "To another nice Jewish girl." "Oh", I said, not quite sure what else there was to say. "Recently she had a baby girl", and all I could come up with at such short notice was another, "Mazel Tov." At least our hostess got the joke.

Tonight we went to a boarding school near here, where there's a Lubavitcher boy studying; I shall not elaborate, because again, privacy is important. I Chazzered over every Sicha I could remember on this week's Parsha, Mattos, and several that I couldn't. Altogether, a fun and educational time was had by all.
And that, friends, was another day. Will the next one bring joy, gladness, song, jubilation, and slurpees at 7/11, or are we doomed to eating dry crackers with margarine? Only time will tell, so come back soon! Yippee! Hooray! (Yeah, I'm just a wee bit tired.


motti said...

thanks for that.
hatzlacha yossi and TRS

Nemo said...

I don't get this whole privacy policy of yours: you linked us to your construction company contact.

Just like a guy said...

He was so nice, and had such a great building, I decided to try and give him some business.

Nemo said...

Hey, maybe I'll support the kid's education or something ...

Why the double standard?

Just like a guy said...

Hypocrisy is the lifeblood of mankind.
But seriously, it's pretty simple. Some people might be embarrassed if it was known that their relative was in a non-Jewish boarding school in NW CT. Some people might be this Bochur's relatives. With regards to Mendel, well, almost no one knows that name anyway, so...you're probably right though, I should not have used anyone's real name or any identifying characteristics.
As for tuition, well, I'm sure they need it. School charges over 100 grand per annum.

Nemo said...

$100K?? That's more than frikking Harvard Law!

There were also patients whose names you didn't mention!

Just like a guy said...

Yes. What else should I say?