The Leiby Initiative
I’ve been meaning to write to you for weeks now about some selfish anti-chessed behavior I have repeatedly been exposed to here in Flatbush, the Brooklyn neighborhood where I’ve lived for some time.
Originally, I intended to be harshly critical. But the tragic loss of Leiby Kletsky, z”l, which highlighted the chessed and achdus that can and does exist in our community, made me rethink the tone I had meant to address this in.
So, in the dear memory of little Leiby, I suggest we ponder some of the offensive habits that you, the reader, may be guilty of. Hopefully, this will lead to an understanding on your part of how you inconvenience others and will motivate you to alter your conduct. Allow me to call it the “Leiby Initiative.”
As many are aware, New York, specifically the communities of Boro Park and Flatbush, are congested with crowds of people and numerous vehicles. As you go about your busy day, please reconsider the following actions:
1. Double Parking: Unless it’s an emergency, do not double park. I cannot count the number of times I have had to painfully squeeze by a double parked car or van — an even bigger irritant when the offending driver could easily have pulled into an empty spot nearby. Regrettably, this thoughtless act is more prevalent in frum neighborhoods.
2. Driving While On The Cell: Talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is ILLEGAL, regardless of how many drivers may be disregarding the law. While I was walking from the train station on my way home from work one evening, two frum women in separate cars almost mowed me down — so distracted were they by their conversations on their hand-held phones.
3. Texting: We all know not to text and drive. But lately I am increasingly impeded as I walk behind frum texters. (You can always tell what activity they are immersed in by their slow gait.) It never seems to cross their minds that they slow pedestrians down behind them. Or, that they are about to walk into one coming their way who must make a beeline around the texter to avoid a collision. In addition, train commuters have the addictive chutzpah to whip out their smart phones as they walk up subway stairs toward the exit – during rush hour no less – in their impatience to check on their e-mail, demonstrating a complete disregard for those who are climbing the stairs behind them, eager to be on their way.
4. Return Your Shopping Carts! You know how you teach your kids to put their toys away and clean up their rooms? Well then, why – after you’re done with your supermarket shopping – are you unable to return the shopping cart? And, by the way, it does not belong behind you in the checkout area where you inconsiderately push it and rudely obstruct another shopper’s access to the checkout!
As we mourn the loss of young Leiby Kletsky, z”l, and reflect upon the achdus this tragedy engendered, how relevant that we find ourselves in a time-period (the Three Weeks) when the tikkun (repair) for combating sinas chinam (baseless hatred) is ahavas chinam (baseless love). By striving to correct our disagreeable behaviors, we will make our communities better – and safer – neighborhoods to reside in.
Concerned in Brooklyn
Rest assured you are far from alone in your frustration, and are right to be concerned. But those who inconvenience you with their unthinking ways have perhaps much more to be concerned about, for in the end they may be causing themselves the bigger headache.
The benefit of instant communication by way of incessant finger tapping on the sophisticated cell’s mini keyboard may come at a hefty price. For one, conveying messages back and forth leaves one with little time to concentrate on much else. But aside from wondering where the day went, we may not be as adept at multitasking as we believe ourselves to be.
In fact, we are far from it. The human brain can only fully concentrate on one thing at a time; the more we attempt to do at once, the less efficient we become at each task — which ultimately will take us twice as long to achieve, our error rate increasing twofold.
Just ask the guy who considers himself a careful, conscientious driver, yet couldn’t help turning his head to glance at his blackberry that was signaling an incoming text. His SUV suddenly collided with a lamppost that “appeared” out of nowhere.
It’s one thing to be home and to discover, to our chagrin, that we neglected to add the most important ingredient to the cake batter we were preparing while on the phone. But when we enter a public domain, our role becomes multidimensional.
Whether walking outdoors or driving, we have a duty to be respectful, responsible and restrained (in our “cell” tendencies and in keeping our emotions in check).
The only way we can hope to have our children do us and our Creator proud (and to increase our chances of being around to shep nachas from them in person) is to teach by example. “Do as I say…” is worthless; on the other hand, “Do as I do…” is difficult to argue with.
Thank you for being an alert driver and pedestrian and for maintaining “old-fashioned” values. “The Leiby Initiative” is a great way to promote harmony and goodwill among people of all faiths and in all neighborhoods.
May we merit seeing the day of mourning become a day of rejoicing.
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