Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Finally Paying It Forward

I was working on a post about traditionalism for yesterday, but then I got a call from my rebbetzin asking if I would take a meal over to a couple in the community who just had a baby.

Flashback to three-and-a-half years ago, when my first son was born. I had a very difficult birth with him, including a c-section with complications, and I was having a really hard time in those early weeks. We lived in suburban Philadelphia, where there is a pretty high concentration of religious Jews. We, quite by chance, lived smack-dab in the middle of a religious community and had easy access to kosher food, a kosher deli inside a regular supermarket, a kosher butcher, and quite a few synagogues. We didn’t exactly consider ourselves part of the community, but we were friendly with a few families and had been to a few Shabbat dinners.

Thus, unbeknownst to me at first, a friend of ours organized members of the community to bring us meals for two weeks after our son was born. Every day, someone would knock on the door, and I’d meet a new person or become reacquainted with someone I’d met casually in the past. I’ll tell you, those meals were fantastic. Anything that saves an almost-bedridden new mother and a new dad working hard to take care of the new baby and his wife from having to cook is absolutely wonderful.

I said to myself, when someone else in the community – or a friend of mine - has a baby, if I’m asked to make a meal, I will wholeheartedly agree. I so wanted to pay it forward!

Then we moved to California, and friends 3000 miles away started having babies. It’s not so practical to take a casserole to a friend when they live on the other side of the country (or, in one case, the world) from you. So we sent gifts and corresponded by email, and I fondly remembered how nice it was that people so kindly brought us meals, and how I hoped that when someone local to me had a baby, maybe I would be able to bring her food.

And finally, this week, I got the call. I don’t actually know this family, but apparently they have come to a few community functions such as the Passover seder. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know them. The point is, they are Jews in Oceanside, they are members of our community, and they just celebrated the birth of a son. We as a community celebrate with them, and we as a community rally to help.

Tomorrow morning, I am going to make a casserole, and I am going to drive it over to their house. I am going to take a couple of challot that I baked last week, and I am going to give them disposable casserole dishes and paper plates and plastic forks so that they don’t have to wash any plates or worry about returning anything. And, if she’s up to it, I’ll sit with the new mom and chat with her and hold the baby for her for a minute (oh, what a hardship!), and keep her company for a while, if she wants.

Because, really, that’s what community is all about, isn’t it? It’s about having a built-in support system so that when you have a simchah (a happy occasion), or, G-d forbid, a difficult time, there are people around you who can cook you a meal, come sit with you for a while, or pray for you or with you.

Anyone care to share a positive experience you’ve had as a result of being part of a community?

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