It feels like the Ten Plagues all over again. Covid resurgence. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Hurricane Ida. The Surfside collapse. What is happening? It’s tempting to lose hope, to surrender to an apocalyptic bleakness.
But the Jewish way has never been to lose hope. Our very national anthem is called “Hatikvah” — The Hope. In fact, as the lyrics go, “Hatikvah bat shnot alpayim” — “the hope of two thousand years.” Yes, we’ve been hoping, as a nation, for two thousand years, for better times. We don’t give up, do we? But the Jewish people are still around, after two thousand years, so something tells me our starry-eyed hope is well-founded.
This week my hope for the human race was rejuvenated.
First, I saw a post on Facebook by a Mary Kate Tischler that had gone viral in my little Jewish corner of the world (she’s not Jewish). It started thus:
“Would you like to have your faith in the human spirit restored? Would you like to hear about an amazing and selfless act of kindness?” Yes, please!
She goes on to write about how she and her young daughter were driving along the highway when she realized she had a flat tire. She pulled over and tried calling AAA when a young man “wearing a yarmulke” pulled up beside her in the 96-degree heat, offering to help. She gratefully accepted and they started chatting about the Orthodox Jewish community he was a part of who do volunteer roadside assistance for anyone who needs. She asked if there was anything she could do to thank him. “Zero,” he smiled. She got back in her car, crying tears of joy and relief. She ends: “That kid has his ticket to heaven written in stone.”
But she did do something. She created a viral post of goodness and gratitude.
Then my friend Robin, whose son was just evacuated from Tulane due to flooding from Hurricane Ida, was telling me about her astonishment and amazement at the acts of human kindness in the wake of the tragedy. Folks took in strangers, drove them where they needed to go, got them toiletries, offered them water and a place to charge their phones. They say that in the face of crisis, we’ll become either angel or animal. It seems the angels won this round. When I asked her for examples, she sent me dozens of texts with posts — she couldn’t stop! Here’s one from “Alon Shaya” in New Orleans at “Saba Restaurant” (that’s an Israeli name, and “Saba” means Grandpa in Hebrew):
“We have lots of free food available at @eatwithsaba now for anyone in the community who is in need. Please come by, we’ll be out here until 5 pm. Lots of bread, butter, eggs, avocados, corn, produce. All free and take what you need or bring some to a friend in need. Please spread the word for us.💙💙” A photo follows with the “Saba” sign and the free food.
And perhaps my favorite, because it’s so small and therefore so touching: “Anyone’s kiddo dropped their Care Bear during evacuation? It’s vacationing in NJ until October.” A photo follows of a very blue, very sad-looking Care Bear.
You see? Us optimists aren’t always off base. Sometimes, hope in humanity is exactly what’s called for. There are so many good humans out there. They just don’t get enough press. And sometimes, observed Robin, it takes an emergency to strip away the nonsense.