Wednesday, March 26, 2008


A friend asked me yesterday an interesting question, not because I haven't been asked it before, but because of a couple of small, 'nothing' stories that happened recently that I thought said a lot.

My friend asked simply "What moves you?"

I've noticed that it's often the little things that 'move' me far more than anything else. The example I gave was a person taking an extra second, or a bit of extra care, to make sure someone was happy, that everything was okay, that they have what they need - that moves me more than (say) a large charitable organization doing what it sets out to do [however amazing that is].

I'll give a quick example from Shabbos. Friday night, while MordyS, G, and myself were davening in the non-post-Purim-Carlebach minyan behind the mechitza (long story), I noticed at the front left of what during the day is the women's section two young men sitting and davening with the front minyan. The one on the left was a regular, the other was a visitor, sitting alone. The one on the left asked the visitor a couple of questions about himself, then asked where he was eating that night; he pointed to the man just in front of the mechitza and responded he was eating by his brother, and the regular said "Oh well, I was going to ask if you wanted to come to us." I couldn't help but smile at the whole exchange.

The next day, as we were leaving shul, G tells me that he liked the shul (and not just because it was over after an hour and a half). I asked why, and he explained that after davening ended, the man on the table he was at asked him simply: "Hi; What's your name; Where are you from; Do you have a place to eat?" Now, this is not a shul that rarely has guests - every week, there are a large number of people who aren't regulars at the shul, there are plenty of new people constantly (KGH is a transient neighborhood with many young people in particular constantly moving in and out), and it's often hard to know if the person next to you is new or has been living next door for ten years. Odds are, people there have places to eat, usually their own house. This isn't the Young Israel of Cleveland where you know that someone is from "out-of-town" and not sitting with someone, so there are odds they might need a place to eat. And perhaps it's easier to assume that an "out-of-towner" might need a place for a meal in New York... but I still thought it was a great story.

When my friend asked me what moves me, it is stories like these that immediately rushed to my mind. People showing awareness of others and their needs, or even just something that will make their lives a little easier or nicer: Making a bunch of calls and sleeping on a floor to make sure someone else has a place to stay after a miscommunication - when it's not your problem. Bringing a couple small items that just make life that much easier. Taking someone else's daughter for a walk, or putting her down to sleep, or just keeping her busy for a little while. Inviting people to meals at places where you know it won't be a problem, because it's needed for whatever reason. Offering to switch places to stay when someone wants to go to sleep and everyone else wants to keep going. Not coming along even when you'll be bored to let a friend talk about something privately. Going to check on a friend first even though there are other important things to do. And in just about all of the cases above, these actions were treated as perfectly normal - expected, even - and were done in a rather low key fashion (or joked about). Modestly. Quietly. As if everyone does it.

Those types of 'little' things move me, even though they're rather common among people we know. Heck, all of those last few examples were just from our guests this past weekend. I don't know... this is what moves me.

What moves you?