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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communites – 9/26/08

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Dear Rachel,

As a longtime Brooklyn resident, I do not cherish having to relate the following incident that has left me aghast, to say the least.

Recently, on an unexceptional summer day, I left the office where I work to run a couple of errands, which included picking up a pie at the local pizza shop for my co-workers. Along with a small shopping bag, I gingerly carried the large square box that had some napkins perched atop. I walked carefully, fearing that the napkins would take flight in the breeze.

As it turned out, this would be the least of my concerns. Somehow I lost my footing and went crashing down on my knees. Sprawled across the walkway, I watched how fresh pizza slices haphazardly decorated the pavement ahead. As I scrambled for my wallet that had been thrown clear from my handbag, I felt a sharp stinging pain in my torn and bloodied knee.

But more than the embarrassment of my clumsiness, and exceeding the soreness of my injury, was my distress over having not one pedestrian stop to help me to my feet, to ask if I was okay or to inquire whether I was in need of any help.

To those who may argue that people are away during the summer months or that this must have taken place in a tucked away neighborhood not frequented by your average daily shoppers, guess again: This was THIRTEENTH AVENUE IN THE LIGHT OF DAY!!! No fewer than 60 people must have ambled by, not to mention a storekeeper who stood in the doorway of his shop watching the scene unfold.

I soon gathered my wits about me and proceeded to scrape every bit of pizza remnant from the sidewalk, and it was as if I was alone in a deserted town. Thirteenth Avenue in Boro Park, between 48th and 49th Streets – probably the most populated area in the region – at 3:30 in the afternoon, and it was as if I was invisible. Would somebody recount such a scenario to me, I’d have a hard time believing it.

When have we become so callous a people? Our lives are rushed, true, but when have we become so self-absorbed as to render us incapable of sparing some moments of our time to tend to the urgent need of another? Hard as I try to find an excuse, I come up empty.

I returned with the box of pizza remnants to the shop where I bought it so that I could discard it and buy a fresh pie. After all, I couldn’t disappoint my co-workers who were looking forward to their late lunch. The non-Jewish clerk behind the counter was most sympathetic, insisting on replacing the pie free of charge. What a contrast to my fellow Yidden who chose to ignore me when I was down for the count!

Please, someone, tell me I was dreaming.

Unbelievable but true

Dear Unbelievable,

Your story is truly unbelievable – so much so that I found myself rereading it to see if I had missed something. All I could do was visualize the time I slipped on a wet piece of trashed cardboard on a rain-soaked street in Manhattan one dusky evening. My umbrella went flying out of my hand, my pocketbook slipping from my grasp, as a gentleman who happened alongside of me stopped to make sure I was none the worse for wear. He retrieved my umbrella, helped me to my feet, and waited to see if I could manage on my own. And all this from a perfect stranger!

I challenge anyone residing in Boro Park to write to this column with a plausible explanation as to how such a thing can occur in our midst. Better yet, if we can hear from someone who was there at the time and who will admit to his or her faux pas in not stopping to come to your aid.

Even more amazing is that your misstep actually created a window of opportunity for someone to do a mitzvah, a good deed – and yet so many failed to take advantage of the moment, of the circumstance that presented itself for the taking.

Please allow me to apologize on behalf of those who slipped in their negligence to stop and offer their assistance. Thank you for allowing this column to remind everyone to do for others as they would want done unto them.

Who among us cannot use extra merit to boost our heavenly accounts? As we rush about our endless quest to enhance our material existence, let us resolve to practice conscientiousness in refining our midos, which ultimately will carry us much further in life and beyond.

May the coming year bring yeshuos and refuos to all of Klal Yisrael.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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