By Joan Gross
A friend sent me a story in an email. Possibly it is true, or maybe it is a yarn woven to teach us a lesson:
“Several years ago, a rabbi from out-of-state accepted a call for a community in Houston, Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much in change.
As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, ‘You’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.’
Then he thought, ‘Oh, forget it, it’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare, they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from G-d and keep quiet.’
When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, ‘Here, you gave me too much change’.
The driver, with a smile, replied, “Aren’t you the new rabbi in town?’
‘Yes,’ he replied.
“Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you in shul on Shabbos’.
When the rabbi stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said ‘Oh Rebonah Shel Olam (creator of the world), I almost sold a Jew for a quarter.'”
This story brought to mind a conversation I had recently on the night of a recent birthday. A teenager, now married with his own family, lived with me and my children for his last two years of high school. That was over twenty years ago. He stated that I had a big influence on him. I expected him to speak about the fact that he obtained a master’s degree from a prestigious university, especially when no one in his immediate family had ever attended college. He was a bright boy and he used his opportunity well.
Instead, he spoke about a broken glass.
During his childhood, whenever he broke something he was yelled out and he said it always made him feel badly. After all, he had never done it purposefully.
He went on to say that in the very beginning when he came to live with us, he was washing dishes and broke a glass. He was really upset, thinking to himself, “You were doing me a favor to keep me in your home, and I broke your glass.”
He continued, “I went to you to confess about the broken glass and you said to me, ‘Well, you know where the garbage is.'”
That sentence, he related, “taught me that there are many different ways to handle a situation and it has been a lifelong lesson that I remember when I want to be angry about someone else’s mistake.”
Someone is watching us, and hearing every word we say. Many times our biggest good deeds may go unnoticed or unappreciated, yet, some little action or word can change someone’s life.