The Benefit of Wise, Old Friends

Everyone should have older friends. I am not talking about someone a few years older than you, I am really talking about someone decades older than you. Someone who has lived their life significantly longer than you and might have a prospective that can help you see your situation in a new way. Someone who will teach you that this too shall pass, both the good things and the bad things and they’ll help you when necessary clarify what’s really important in life.

I have always loved elders. My first job after college was working as an activities director in a long-term assisted living facility in Massachusetts. Since I had recently lost my own grandmother, I felt adopted and counseled by the wise men and women who were my patients. It was during that time that I was having some relationship challenges and sought advice from Rose Brown a 90-year-old feisty women who offered her opinions liberally. Turns out she gave me excellent advice.

In my later 20’s, when my husband and I relocated to Portland, Oregon we befriended our Rabbi and his wife, Lisl. They visited us in the hospital when both of our children were born and we shared dozens of meals and events with them over the years as our children grew from toddlers to teens. After the Rabbi passed away a few years ago, the Rebbetzin remained in their family home. She is much less mobile these days but continues to remain independent and has quite a busy social life with a large extended family that visits her frequently.

I have continued to visit with the Rebbetzin since the Rabbi died and people will often say how nice it is that I still do that, but the truth is that she has become a dear friend. I love visiting with her and am often sad when a week passes and we haven’t had a chance to share a cup of tea. Even though there is a 50 year gap in our ages, I am continuously surprised how we can discuss subjects pertinent to my life and how her advice helps guide my actions. For example, yesterday while discussing teenage relationships my 90-year-old friend brought up sex. She may be ninety, but having reared three children of her own, seen the growth of several grand children and now dozens of great grandchildren she has plenty of experience to share with me. Despite the age difference and the fact that she is from a  previous generation many of her suggestions are still very relevant and helpful.

Befriending an older friend who has wisdom and guidance to share can offer incredible two-way benefits. I am as much the beneficiary of any visiting I do with my dear friend as she is. If there is an older person you haven’t visited recently make some time to do it. Perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the counsel you’ll receive too.

A fractured wrist and words from the Rebbetzin

Last week was a bit crazy. My kids were home from school and we had several free days to spend together. On Wednesday, we decided to take a bike ride.  A block from our house my 11 year old daughter spun out and fell over her handlebars. She was very shaken up and I took her to the doctor to check her out. Sure enough she had fractured her wrist. What a bummer for the first few weeks of summer. Instead of being mad, she was actually grateful. She realized it could have been her right arm, could have been her her shoulder or elbow or her leg, all of which she thought would be harder then just a short cast over her wrist. Also, I think she thought the attention with a cast on would be fun. So far it actually has been.

At the end of the week, I spoke with the Rebbetzin. I had hoped to visit her during the week but with the accident, it just didn’t happen. I was definitely on nurse duty and trying to help my daughter however I could.  Thursday she was a complete couch potato and needed water, Motrin and just some Mommy time.

When I spoke to the Rebbetzin she told me that taking care of my daughter had been my mitzvah for the week. I reminded her that several months ago she told me I couldn’t “count” helping my children or my husband as “mitzvahs”. She originally told me that as a wife and mother these activities are just part of our daily lives and aren’t considered mitzvahs. She had forgotten telling me that and  rescinded that opinion,  she said anytime we are going beyond the call of duty it should count as a mitzvah we are giving the other person. It was an amusing conversation because I had definitely thought about what she had said whenever I was doing things for my family these past several months.

Since I am no longer “counting” mitzvahs it really doesn’t matter. Taking care of a child who has been hurt is number one on any parents list. I actually enjoyed my daughter’s quieter demeanor for a few hours. Sometimes these days I get more hugging when my kids are sick than when they are well. Go figure!

Is a mitzvah for your kid still a mitzvah?

folding towelsSeems like life has gotten busy and while I know I am still doing mitzvahs it seems as if it’s hard to find the time to write them. I think these last 300 mitzvahs will be worth the wait though….

This week I pondered a few times whether some acts counted as mitzvahs. In the end I did count them.

695) Held a business event at a local community center. I needed towels for the event but they were short staffed that day and there was a big back up of clean unfolded towels. I asked one of the employees on duty that day if I could help out by emptying the dirty towel bins and folding lots of them to bring them back in.  He was grateful but the question remains is a mitzah still a mitzvah when you benefit from it?

696) Called a friend to check in with her.

697) Visited with the Rebbetzin. She always tells me that is a huge mitzvah.

698) Donated drinks to the staff appreciation event.

699) Volunteered at the 1st grade camp out event.

700) I am not sure if this is a mitzvah since it was for my son but it certainly was beyond what I might normally do but my son was so adamant. I arrived at the 1st grade camp out day. We were leaving for a big 10 day trip that night and I still had packing and cleaning to finish. I was slightly frazzled but I had agreed to volunteer and was looking forward to helping with the event. When I got there my son asked if he could see me in private. He showed me that his pants had split that day and he was covering them with his sweatshirt around his waist. He wanted me to help him. I looked in the lost and found but didn’t find any replacement pants. It was only 2 hours until the end of the day but he asked if I would please drive home and get him some new pants. I did and he was very grateful. So is it a mitzvah when you do something you might not otherwise do for a child, spouse or parent?

701) Walked over to someone who was lost in my neighborhood and gave them the correct directions.

702) Today a friend of mine was involved in a small accident. I arrived at the scene a few minutes after it occurred. I took her dog home and helped the officers with bringing a scooter home and notifying her husband.

703) Shared some information with a friend that I thought she might benefit from.

Mitzvahs giving and receiving

264) Visited with the Rabbi and the Rebbetzin, not sure what the summer will bring but I hope I can still make visits frequently. I love our morning together each week.

265) Brought food to the 3rd grade picnic and volunteered during the picnic at school. I do believe volunteering at school counts as a mitzvah.

266) Found out it was someone’s birthday today and surprised her with flowers. It reminded me of the Visa commercial where they put a price on everything and at the end one of the things is priceless. To see the surprised look on the mom’s face was priceless and I loved being the one to do it.

267) Volunteered through Dress For Success today.

Received a couple of mitzvahs back today. I hearty thank you from the woman at the school who was retiring and got flowers last week (she hadn’t been there when I had left them for her.) Someone I made food for a few weeks back donated to our synagogue in our honor. Lastly, I received a phone call telling me that a conference call I had done yesterday was excellent. I guess it’s true that the more you give the more you receive. Atleast I feel that way today.