When I was a student in Fordham University pursuing my master’s in social work, one of my professors recounted an experience he had witnessed one year on the day of the Fordham graduation. Fordham Social Work graduates meet outside the university and walk a half block to Lincoln Center where the commencement exercises are held. That year, as they were walking single file in their caps and gowns, heads held high, they hardly noticed a beggar sitting on the side of the street with his hand outstretched soliciting charity.
My professor noted the tragic irony of a group of people so consumed with the joy of graduation in a field dedicated to helping others in need that they were oblivious to the plight of someone in need.
We often don’t take the time to internalize the wonderful things we are involved in. We also don’t always appreciate how much we mean to others and how much we can do for others just by doing small acts of kindness and helping others feel validated.
American author Maya Angelou said, “Although people may not necessarily remember what you said or did, they will always remember how you made them feel.”
On the day of my own graduation from Fordham in May 2003, I too walked with my fellow graduates the half block to Lincoln Center. I was proud to receive my diploma wearing my cap and gown. After the event, I was walking with my wife and parents towards our car. An African American fellow pushing a hand-truck loaded with boxes across the Manhattan street suddenly collided with the curb. Boxes flew everywhere, prompting a few honks from annoyed and impatient drivers. My father looked at me, motioned towards the boxes, and said “C’mon, it’s the right thing to do!”
We then proceeded to help the flustered and very appreciative man collect his boxes and place them back on the hand-truck. He kept repeating “Thank you rabbis! That’s really nice! Thank you, rabbis!”
It wasn’t just the Kiddush Hashem that we generated, it was also the lesson my father taught me. It’s the right thing to do! Internalize what you were taught and let it become part of who you are.
Someone once told me that one of the things that makes my father so special is that despite his being the administrator of a nursing home, he still maintains his original training as a social worker. He makes rounds around the nursing home every morning to check on all the residents and patients, offers a pleasant word, and sees how they are doing. I have been told by numerous people, including some notable Monsey personalities, “I spent time in the nursing home recuperating. Your father treated me like royalty.”
“…But they will always remember how you made them feel!”
It’s always nice when a child has nachas from his parents.