Good Deed – Paying It Forward

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Levin recently appeared on Boomer Generation Radio. He will be contributing his thoughts occasionally to our website.

By Rabbi David Levin

I want to share with you a story about my new friend Tony.

Tony and I met on a New York City street corner a couple of weeks ago.  He was leaning against a phone booth, cane in hand with a disheveled look about him.  I was walking past him on my way to someplace else and I caught him say, “ Could you help me out? I’m hungry.  Anything would help.”  I decided a while ago that I would not hand out money to people on the street, but I would also try not to let a request for food go unanswered. I did something that brought both Tony and I to a new place together.

Homeless sleeping on the sidewalk

Homeless sleeping on the sidewalk by Franco Folini, on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

Instead of pointing Tony to the hot dog vendor with a dollar, I asked him what he would like to eat.  Tony seemed at first startled, and then replied, “A cheeseburger.” To which I then asked, “Where do you get one around here?” Tony nodded toward the deli a couple of doors away from where we were standing.  “Let’s go,” I said.  As we walked, Tony thanked me a couple of times.  We went to the grill chef and Tony ordered.  He cautiously asked if he could get something to drink and I responded with “Well you have to wash it down with something, of course.”  He came back with a diet Pepsi, as we started to talk, I learned Tony’s diabetes kept him from getting something with sugar in it.  He shared some of his story and I shared a bit of mine as well.  Tony said the Doctors at the hospital took good care of his ailments, but once they were done, he was back on the street.  But that was okay since the hospital food was lousy.  However, the burgers here were great.  Tony then wanted to know if I was ordering a burger too.

We parted at the check out counter.  Tony was on his way to the dining area to enjoy his meal, and I was off to do my thing.  I doubt I changed Tony’s life, but he had a profound impact on mine; in that moment we met as two real people sharing ourselves with each other.  For me that was a lovely gift.

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