Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
As a congregational rabbi, I often see people in hospitals and other health care facilities. While each building may look different, the actual differences are rather minute. It was my privilege recently to visit a hospital that is a definite exception to that rule.
Several weeks ago I traveled together with Larry Babitts to Washington to visit patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. With its patient population consisting mainly of wounded U.S. soldiers and a staff decked out in army-issue camouflage hospital scrubs and combat boots, visiting Walter Reed was an entirely new experience for me.
I wanted to visit Walter Reed with Larry in order to thank our brave soldiers for their service. I also wanted to let them know that American Jews truly appreciate their sacrifices in the war against terror.
Larry, a longtime friend of my synagogue, Kesher Israel Congregation of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who was wounded in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. In addition to being active in a number of veteran-related activities, Larry regularly travels from Harrisburg to Walter Reed to visit, comfort and lift the spirits of soldiers who have been wounded on the battlefield.
While driving to Washington, Larry explained his dedication to this unique act of chesed (kindness). While serving as an infantryman during the Korean War, Larry had his legs shattered by an enemy landmine that killed some of his fellow soldiers.
Realizing his group had ventured into a heavily mined area, Larry could only writhe in pain, thinking no one would risk his life to evacuate him. But one brave soldier was determined to get Larry off of that Korean hilltop. Though he vividly remembers the sound of the soldier’s voice, to this day Larry has absolutely no idea who the soldier was or even what he looked like.
Larry was eventually evacuated to the U.S. where he spent almost two years at Walter Reed recovering from his wounds. Unable to thank the soldier whose act of kindness saved his life, Larry reciprocates by visiting and sharing his story with a new generation of wounded soldiers. He does his best to encourage those whose experiences he can so clearly relate to.
We had a chance to visit with a few young soldiers and their families. The first patient we saw was a fellow Pennsylvanian who’d been wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. While all his limbs were thankfully intact, he had suffered a severe concussion and faced a long recovery. Both he and his family appreciated our visit. (I realized I’d just read about this soldier’s injury in that Saturday’s newspaper. I told his family how amazed I was that the army had transferred him to Walter Reed by Monday morning.)
The second soldier we saw was a young officer whose vehicle had been hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan. His wife at his bedside, he was recovering from having had one of his legs amputated below the knee. I was impressed by his positive attitude. He told us he had nothing but gratitude for the army’s efforts. He had been injured about a year and a half earlier; army surgeons had operated more than ten times in an effort to save his leg.
While we talked, he thanked a visiting doctor for the hospital’s efforts on his behalf. “No private health insurance would’ve paid for ten surgeries,” he joked.
I hope the wounded soldiers and their family members took comfort from my visit, but I clearly saw how much they appreciated Larry’s. In him they saw someone who understood their pain, anxieties and concerns – someone who spent two years recovering in Walter Reed and then went on to lead and enjoy a fulfilling life.
Obviously, encountering a caring human being with a shared set of experiences went a long way to provide those brave young men with a greater sense of hope, optimism, and comfort.
Visiting Walter Reed with Larry Babitts reminded me of a very important lesson. Many centuries ago our sages taught us that in the midst of a crisis, knowledge that others have dealt with a similar challenge can be a great source of comfort.
To some extent, each of us has had to deal with trying situations. Sharing our experiences with others in similar straits is an extraordinary act of chesed. Letting others know we can relate to their pain can make a world of a difference to someone facing one of life’s many challenges.
About the Author: Kesher Israel Congregation’s Rabbi Akiva Males can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Welcome the book of Leviticus!
If the nationalist Knesset members don’t provide the answer, the Arab MKs will do so in their place.
International Agunah Day falls annually on Ta’anis Esther, this year on March 13.
Even a foxhole Yid has to admit that antisemitism is on the upswing.
As shocking and insulting and horrifying as it is, Nazi war criminals are still living freely among us.
One can almost imagine a shocked Mr. Kerry thinking to himself, “How could he?” Yet not only did Mr. Putin do what he did, China, one of the three major international players along with the U.S. and Russia, agreed with him, not with Mr. Kerry.
Ramaz is a venerable Modern Orthodox educational institution whose mission statement contains the explicit commitment to “Ahavat Yisrael, and love and support for the State of Israel.”
In the course of the ages there wasn’t a Jewish community more convinced of its capacity for survival than the Jewish community of Hungary in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Liberals got an Affirmative Action president who doesn’t have the wisdom or the authority to change the battle plan.
The world excuses Islamic murder, but focuses on flaws, often imaginary, on the part of Israel.
Abbas also sent wreath to honor suicide bomber who killed 8.
It has been a very challenging year that has taken a toll on the Cohen family.
In a short span of time our shul raised and distributed thousands of dollars for relief organizations.
In 2007 my parents decided it was time to downsize and sell their home of more than thirty years. To help them pack up and move into their new apartment, I returned to Cleveland to offer my assistance.
Two recent experiences served to drive home the point to me that – with apologies to the popular Disney musical boat ride “It’s a Small World” – it really is a small Jewish world.
“Rabbi, is there any religious requirement for Jewish men to wear mezuzahs around their necks?”
“Rabbi, if you yourself are clean-shaven, why does this inmate claim his Jewish religion prohibits him from using a razor on his face?”
We are all aware of the terrible divisions among Israel’s Jewish population. My friends and colleagues in Israel tell me they cannot remember a time in recent years where so much fragmentation existed. All this when the external threats facing Israel grow greater by the day.
No matter our stage in life, one is seldom comfortable feeling left out. Unfortunately, many American Jews experience exactly that feeling each year as Christmas approaches. The term “December Dilemma” is used to describe the tension many Jews feel sitting on the sidelines, unable to fully enjoy or participate in the distinctly Christian themes and activities occurring all around.
On the first day of this past Rosh Hashanah, I visited Milwaukee while my wife, Layala, traveled back to the shul of her youth in Brooklyn. When we met up later in the day for Yom Tov lunch at our Harrisburg, Pennsylvania home, we had a number of experiences to share with each other.
As a synagogue rabbi I try to keep my eyes open to see how or if I can incorporate personal experiences into my weekly Shabbos sermon. Recently, I represented my shul at the Orthodox Union’s (OU) annual mission to Washington, DC (June 14-15). On my way to one of the first events, I joked with a rabbi friend from Charleston, South Carolina that I was hoping to return with some good material for that week’s sermon.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-memorable-visit-to-a-very-different-hospital-2/2009/07/01/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.