Baruch wiped his brow. Placing his bags in the overhead compartment, he settled heavily in his seat wondering why he was sweating so profusely. True, traveling was not his forte, and he certainly was not excited about the fundraising trip he was embarking on. Still, his head felt heavy. Perhaps it was due to the pressure of the last few weeks?
As the director of an orphanage in Yerushalayim, his list of responsibilities was long. Most pressing of all was the financial situation, which fell far below acceptable standards. The electric company had already sent a warning that they would cut off all electricity if the bill was not paid up within the month. There was no money to purchase food for the poor children. The orphanage was in danger of closing down.
Baruch took the home very seriously. He invested all his energy into ensuring that the unfortunate children under his care were attended to with abundant warmth and love. The orphanage had fallen into his lap with the passing of Baruch’s father, the founder of the home. Some 40 years earlier, Baruch’s father, a tremendous ba’al chesed, had taken some orphans into his home. The group of orphans and homeless children grew until Baruch’s father was forced to rent a separate apartment for them. Before long, there were enough children to fill an entire dormitory.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Baruch’s heart was larger than his pocket. He could not refuse any child in need, and supporting such a large institution was way above Baruch’s means. He felt compelled to seek substantial support from others, and realized that flying internationally was the way to go.
And so, Baruch found himself on the plane. After takeoff, Baruch felt very weak. His head was swimming and he was feverish. Seeing his condition, the head steward suggested that Baruch move over to the business class section. There, he could recline his seat into a lying position. Hopefully the increased comfort would make him feel better. The steward helped Baruch take his carry-on from the bin and showed him his new seat. Seated right near him was an elderly couple that seemed to be in their 70s. Baruch nodded to them and lay down. Soon he was fast asleep.
A couple of hours later, Baruch awoke from a deep sleep, feeling a bit better already. He stretched his arms and then returned them back to his sides. Without meaning to, his hand landed on the button of the seat near him and pressed down a bit too firmly. Suddenly, his neighbor’s seat flew open wide with a jerk and the elderly man found himself flat on his back, more than a little bit surprised.
Baruch’s mouth dropped open wide. He was so embarrassed! Here he didn’t even belong in the business class section, and he had inadvertently made an elderly passenger with legitimate rights to the cabin uncomfortable. “I’m so sorry,” he blurted out. Feelings of discomfort mingled with feelings of compassion for his innocent neighbor. Baruch jumped out of his seat and bent over toward the man, planting a kiss on his forehead. “Please forgive me! I feel so bad about what happened. It was a real mistake! Please…”
“I forgive you! Wholeheartedly.” The elderly passenger stated passionately. “But – you kissed me on my forehead, right?”
Baruch nodded, a quizzical expression on his face.
“I don’t believe it!” the passenger, who introduced himself as Morris, exclaimed. He sat back in his seat and began to share his tale.
“I am a businessman,” Morris said. “My dealings have been blessed with much success. But my wife and I never had children. I recently celebrated my 70th birthday and I decided it was time I use some of my money for children. That was the purpose of this trip. My wife and I came to Israel hoping to find some school or orphanage that would use our money wisely. We weren’t sure if we would help found a new school or support an existing one. During the two weeks of our stay, we looked around and visited a number of institutions, but we were not pleased. We were not able to find a single one that we trusted would use our money to care for the children to our satisfaction.
“So here we are, on our way home, without having accomplished our mission.” Morris sighed. “As we got onto the plane, a crazy thought came into my head. I said to my wife, ‘the first person who will give me a kiss will be the one to get my donation.’ I figured that someone who shows natural warmth is probably the right person… and would be able to give over warmth and care to unfortunate children.”
Morris’ wife, who had been listening to the exchange, suddenly interjected. “Yes, yes! That is exactly what Morris told me. Right here – on this plane!” She smiled broadly. “Are you ready to undertake the project?”
Baruch was too shocked to speak. He stood up and placed his carry-on on his seat. Zipping it open, he pulled out an album. “Here,” he said, “take a look at this!”
The couple peered at the photos. As they flipped the pages, Baruch explained that he was actually the director of an orphanage! He pointed out various activities and details. Morris and his wife could not contain their enthusiasm. A passing stewardess asked them to lower the volume of their joyful exclamations.
The very next day, Baruch was on the plane again, flying back home. The generous donation he had received mid-air was enough to cover the orphanage’s debt. With it, he was also able to expand and build a much-needed new wing in the dormitory.
This story took place a number of years ago.