On the surface, of course, Portland, Oregon and New York City couldn’t be more different. The pace of life for one is immensely different and yet in three small instances I have already felt that people are willing to help a needy traveler. I am looking forward to some more interactions today to see if outside of the hotel/restaurants, there will be continued mitzvah opportunities.
Yesterday, a friend picked me up from the airport (that was definitely a HUGE mitzvah I didn’t even count) and we headed into the city to have some dinner. We parked on a street close to the restaurant and realized that we needed coins to plug the meters since they didn’t take dollars or credit cards. We started asking random people if they had change for a dollar. A few people didn’t have change or just kept walking past us, but one young couple probably in their early twenties who didn’t actually have the whole amount just gave us the $.75 cents they had and told us to use it for parking and keep our original dollar. Wow, I thought that was pretty cool!
I am fighting a cold this week and my voice is clearly hoarse. At the restaurant during dinner, I asked the waiter if they had any packets of honey that I might take back to my hotel to use later for my tea. The young male waiter said he could make me a small container to go. He handed me a few teaspoons of honey in a small plastic container with a plastic bag protecting it from spilling in my purse. A simple but very appreciative gesture.
Finally, in my hotel room there were only packets of caffeinated tea and I figured I might be able to get a decaffinated tea bag from the restaurant downstairs. The bar tender got me a packet of tea and proceeded to ring up my bill to the tune of $4! Lest I forget that indeed I am in NYC. This was surely a reminder. I refused the bag unwilling to pay the price. A few minutes later, when I casually mentioned it to the person at the front desk he told me to just go back and tell the bar tender that the manager said it was fine to give me the packet. Perhaps this one counts more as customer service than as an actual mitzvah but regardless the tea and honey were a wonderful chance for me to soothe my throat last night and I was very grateful.
One last opportunity of giving… in the airport in Portland before our departure, I sat next to a lovely non-Jewish couple heading to Israel for the first time. We started chatting and after a couple of hours on the plane I got to thinking about the idea of giving charity or tzedakah to a friend who is traveling. I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, but here is the gist.
Judaism teaches that one who is giving tzedakah (charity) is immune from harm. Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, a Rabbinic sage from 9 C.E. said, “No harm happens to people on Mitzvah missions, neither en route to the Mitzvah, nor on the way back.” (Pesachim 8b) This idea has led to a belief that if someone is about to embark on a trip and is taking tzedakah they will be protected on their journey. Even if it’s more tradition than anything, I love this concept. An individual embarking on a trip with a mission to deliver tzedakah on the other end is somehow protected.
So I wandered up the plane and found the couple again. I explained the custom and gave them each a dollar to give to a charity of their choice when they got to Israel. They seemed excited by the idea and I returned to my seat, smiling.
Oh, it is good to give and receive and the last twelve hours I have been gifted with both!