Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I walked into the office feeling pretty down. I’m tempted to say, “as down as down could be,” but I know there is worse. But I felt pretty down, like buried five feet under, with furniture piled over the iron grate covering the pit, and armed guards pacing back and forth.

I left the therapist’s office feeling much, much, better. He had given me information, insight, and options that might open doors. Nothing was actually changed yet, but there was hope.

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Hope can change everything.

The rain was cruel, the cold forbidding. I ducked into the car, tensed in the uninviting temperature, and mentally held my breath as the needle slowly climbed from cold to warm. I turned on the heat. Slowly the car filled with warmth, and I relaxed. My mind whirled as gray houses drifted past. So many possibilities – dangers, yes, but also hopes; so much to think about.

I turned a corner and there was the park.

Oh. The park. Ech.

The park had been on my to-do list for days. It was all because of that uneaten sandwich bag of bread that had been floating around my car. Nixed in favor of a yogurt-and-fruit lunch one day, the four slices of Ezekiel bread sat solemnly near their cheese and waited. No hungry homeless man in the train station had appeared to possibly benefit. There was still one possible group of beneficiaries – the pigeons in the park.

Sigh. That’s why the bread has been sitting in my car for so long. It’s always dark, and often wet, and at least cold, and any sort of trip is just not that appealing.

But I’d been waiting. I hesitated. I swung over to the curb, deciding that this would be a perfect spot for a coffee break anyway. Now that I was warmed from my good news, a burst of energy would feel good.

I sat and sipped the hot drink from my thermos, watching the raindrops splatter and slide down my windshield. The warm goodness spread through me, lighting up my eyes from their foggy fatigue. Everything looked just a little bit better now.

I looked across the street. The park looked soggy and morose. If I would leave bread there, it would get waterlogged really quickly. Just another waste. Right?

A pigeon waddled along the gate, pecking at the ground. Poor pigeon. What could it find in this weather? I sipped my coffee and relaxed. It was much too cold and wet out there.

My mind worked on me while I sipped. Think of all the poor birds out there. What do they have to eat on a day like today? But all the birds are safely in their cozy nests, I argued. But what if a birdy is hungry?

The pigeon strutted haplessly through the raindrops.

It floated to me, as naturally as the water streaming down the glass.

Seven years ago. I was suffering from so many things, including serious health issues. I begged someone I knew to give me a name of a rav I could speak to. He gave me the contact information for a specific rosh yeshiva. When I called him, I cried on the phone. I didn’t feel he could help me much in a practical sense. But… “Is there anything…,” I choked out, “that I could do, as a merit that G-d should have mercy on me?”

He sighed, as one who looks at a long, long, road, and tries one last time to pump a little more gas into the leaky tank.

“The gemara says, ‘Whoever has mercy on the creations, they have mercy on him from the heavens.’ ”

I was startled. It seemed so simple, and so basic. Could he really mean it?

It became my mantra. Born, perhaps, from that selfish perspective… but needing, inherently, to translate into genuine compassion. It’s not easy.

I stared at the cold and wet iron gate to the park. There was that pigeon, pecking away.

I reached over the back seat and groped for a plastic baggie with four slices of the healthiest bread in town. I turned off the heat, the wipers, and the engine. I opened the door and I stepped out.

Warmed inside by the coffee, I no longer felt so unwelcomed by the cold air. I crossed over puddles and walked inside the park gates. Nearby was a small building whose roof overhung a small dry spot. Perfect.

I nearly walked over the pigeon, hiding out of sight in that dry spot. It barely retreated when I knelt and quickly opened the bag. Slices laid down, I beat a hasty exit.

Back in my car, warm and dry. Done! Felt good.

As I turned on the engine, I looked out the window. A small crowd of pigeons pecked hungrily at my bread.

Your Creatures, Hashem.

The sight warmed my heart, lifting the corners of my lips as I drove away.

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