Loosely Based on a True Story
Brrr—-iiiing! the phone rang. Sarah dried off
her hands from the dish soap and reached for the phone.
"Hello," she answered calmly.
"Hello, is this Sarah Neuman?" the voice on the other end
"Yes it is. How can I help you?"
"My name is Malky Sugar. We were wondering, if you would be
willing to come to an introductory meeting for our Chesed
"Um, what kind of kind of Chesed Organization are you talking
about?" Sarah asked.
"We are called Lichvod HaAvos — we try to visit
elderly people in Old Age Homes to bring them some cheer."
"Would you want me to participate in these visits?" Sarah
"You could, if you would want to; but the point of the
meeting is to develop building representatives who would
collect some small food stuffs to hand out during the
Since Sarah lived far away from her own family, the idea of
doing chesed with the elderly appealed to her. If she
couldn't honor her own family members, then at least she
could help to bring some happiness to some other elderly
person. The two women discussed when and where the meeting
would take place and amiably hung up the phone.
A few days later, Sarah entered a house in a neighborhood she
wasn't so familiar with and realized that she didn't
recognize a single woman. A sweet young woman walked over to
her and said, "You must be Sarah Neuman." Sarah recognized it
as Malky's voice.
"Yes and you must be Malky," Sarah answered, happy to at
least have one person she semi-knew. The two ladies took a
drink from the nicely set table and sat themselves down. "How
did you get involved with this organization?" Sarah asked
"My boss, Mrs Rivka Weiss, is the head of the organization.
She'll be here soon. Oh, there she is now," Malky replied.
In walked a woman of medium height with a light brown
sheitel, bursting with energy. In spit-fire Hebrew, she made
some introductory remarks. She quickly made note of the women
present and warmly greeted Sarah. Then she went on to explain
the great need of building representatives, who would collect
appropriate foodstuffs to be handed out to these elderly
patients. There was a long description of the various old age
homes that they visited and their conditions. Some of the
homes sounded less than pleasant to Sarah. When Sarah heard
that the visits were made at about four to five o'clock in
the afternoon, she immediately cancelled out any possibility
of participating with these visits. That was the time that
her kids needed her in the house the most. She was willing to
be a building representative and collect the foodstuffs.
After the formal meeting was over, Sarah found herself
shmoozing with the young woman, Malky, not much more than a
newlywed. "Do you work, Sarah?" Malky asked.
"Just a little bit of tutoring, mending, that kind of stuff.
I really like being at home with my kids. I usually try to
keep the little ones at home until they're close to three
years old," Sarah answered. "What do you do for Mrs.
"You can call her Rivkie. Everyone does. I'm her babysitter.
Rivkie works in a bank. I'm at her house from eight thirty
until four." Malkie answered.
"Wow, what a long day. I could never do something like that."
Sarah said, amazed.
"Rivkie is a real powerhouse, if you hadn't noticed." Malky
explained as Sarah nodded in agreement. She certainly had
noticed. "She is always busy with one thing or another. After
her kids go to sleep, she is out almost every night, working
with one chesed organization or another. One night it
could be for the needy, another night for sick people. She is
always busy." Malky said. Sarah didn't know what to
Sarah went back home with some flyers to put up around the
building, so that the neighbors would know to bring over the
food item. Sometimes, she sent one of her kids collecting in
the building. They managed to gather a nice amount of
cookies, wafers, and snacks. Things went along smoothly and
Sarah was pleased that she was able to help Lichvod
HaAvos. She thought about Rivkie, the head. "Now that's
someone who is really devoted to chesed. I guess she
has unusual amounts of energy and is amazingly organized,"
Sarah thought to herself. She shared her musings with the
ladies she volunteered with at the clothing gemach.
One of the older ladies said, "Each one can only do what she
is capable of. No two people or two situations are the same."
Sarah agreed. She still thought it was amazing, how much
Rivkie was able to accomplish.
One day, there was a phone call for Sarah. " Hello, this is
Rivkie from Lichvod HaAvos," she said in her bullet-
speed fashion. "I see that you are extremely efficient at
gathering food items from your building. I was wondering if
you would be willing to be the neighborhood co-ordinator? I
think you would do a great job and the organization would
really benefit," she asked in a most convincing, assured
"Me," Sarah thought to herself, "a real chesed
lady...?" "Uh, I'm not sure, I mean do you really think
that I could handle it?" Sarah hesitated. "I'm sure you would
do a wonderful job," Rivkie assured her. After a lengthy
discussion, Sarah felt she knew all the ins and outs of being
a neighborhood co-ordinator. Soon she would know if she could
really take it on.
Thursday afternoon, Sarah motioned to her twelve-year-old
daughter, Shoshie, to come over to her. Once again, Sarah
found herself on the phone with chesed work. "Hold on
a minute," she said into the phone. "Shoshie, could you take
this kugel over to Mrs. Levy? She is due to give birth
soon and isn't feeling so well. I'll bet she could use this
Immediately, Sarah went back to the phone. Another situation
had a risen and she was trying to deal with various
logistics. Sarah had no idea how time-consuming this
chesed stuff would be. She noticed out of the corner
of her eye that her son had come in from cheder. He
looked tired and a bit upset. "I think we covered the most
important points. If there is anything else you want to
discuss, please call after nine o'clock," she said to the
lady on the other end, before hanging up.
Sarah saw that this wasn't a one-time occurence. Every few
days, she would be on the phone with one volunteer or
another. Usually she could keep the calls short, so that they
wouldn't interfere with her family too much. "So this is what
being a real chesed lady is all about," Sarah mused to
herself. One afternoon, Sarah decided that maybe she wasn't
cut out for this after all. She had just offered to watch her
neighbor's baby so that the neighbor could take a different
child to the doctor. The phone rang and once again someone
needed her help for Lichvod HaAvos. Apparently, there
were no volunteers available in a few buildings at the edge
of the neighborhood and the woman on the other end of the
line was frantic. Just then, Sarah's own son walked in
bleeding. "I'm so very sorry but I have my own emergency. Try
to take care of the problem by yourself. Bye."
Sarah left her daughter in charge and hurried with her son to
the first aid clinic. After a few stitches, a lollipop and a
small prize, Sarah found herself shaken but back at home. Her
son had overcome his trauma, but Sarah wasn't so sure that
she had overcome her own.
"I like to do chesed but I guess I'm not really the
take-charge type, after all. I don't want to be on the phone
when an emergency happens," Sarah confided to her daughter,
over a much needed cup of tea. "I guess I'm not really a
Chesed Lady," she said sadly.
"I don't know about that, Mommy. Even before this, you used
to send food over to people in need of help. You volunteer in
the clothing gemach. You were doing a nice job
collecting snacks right in our building and even today, you
were watching over the neighbor's baby. Those are all acts of
kindness, too," Shoshie said to her mother.
"Well I guess I'm not cut out for this big chesed
stuff; organizing and co-ordinating. I'm planning to call
Rivkie tommorrow, and tell her that it's too much for me,"
Sarah said in a definite-sounding tone of voice. "Maybe when
all of you kids get older and don't need me so much, then
I'll have the time and nerves for this."
The next day, Sarah kept her word and called Rivkie's house.
"Hello,"said the familiar voice, although it wasn't
"Oh Malkie, it's Sarah Neuman. How are you? How could I have
forgotten that Rivkie is still at work." Sarah said.
"It's O.K. Lots of people call to the house looking for her.
Can I help you?" Malkie asked pleasantly.
"Um... I don't want to have to remember to call again. Can
you please leave a message telling Rivkie that I don't mind
being a building representative, but I'm just not up to being
a neighborhood co-ordinator. I feel so bad letting her down.
It was such a puny job compared to all the things that Rivkie
does, but it was taking up too much of my family's time. I
hope she understands." Sarah said apologetically.
"You shouldn't feel bad at all," Malkie said gently.
"But people like Rivkie do so much for Klall Yisroel.
We need people like her." Sarah said earnestly.
"You're right Sarah," Malkie said, "Rivkie does a tremendous
amount for Klall Yisroel but I'll tell you something
that I know personally. Rivkie is really jealous of you. She
wishes that she could be like you. She wishes that she could
stay at home and be happy and relaxed with her family,
without all this running around, but she is completely driven
to do more and more. Don't feel bad, Sarah. Everyone has
their own job in life," Malkie explained warmly. "I'll
forward your message — don't worry."
Sarah got off the phone with a lot to think about.