Wednesday, June 29, 2022

When I was a student in Fordham University pursuing my master’s in social work, one of my professors recounted an experience that he had witnessed, one year, on the day of the Fordham graduation. Fordham Social Work graduates would meet outside the university and walk half a block to the Lincoln Center where the commencement exercises would be held. That year as they were walking single file — donned in their caps and gowns —, and their heads held high, they hardly noticed a beggar sitting on the side of the street with his hand outstretched soliciting some charity.

My professor noted the tragic irony of a group of people so consumed with their own joy of graduation in a field dedicated to helping others in need — that they were oblivious to the plight of someone in need.

We often don’t take the time to internalize the wonderful things we are involved in. We also don’t always appreciate how much we mean to others and how much we can do for others, just by doing small acts of kindness and helping others feel validated.

As the American author, Maya Angelou, quipped, “Although people may not necessarily remember what you said or did, they will always remember how you made them feel.”

On the day of my own graduation from Fordham University in May 2003, I too walked with my fellow graduates half a block to the Lincoln Center. I was proud to receive my diploma while I was donned in my cap and gown. After the event ended, I was walking with my wife and parents towards our car. An African-American fellow was pushing a hand-truck — which was loaded with boxes — across the street of Manhattan, and it suddenly collided with the curb. Boxes flew everywhere, which prompted a few honks from annoyed and impatient drivers. My father looked at me, motioned towards the boxes, and then said to me: “C’mon, it’s the right thing to do!”

We then proceeded to help the flustered and very appreciative man collect his boxes and place them back on the hand-truck. He kept repeating, “Thank you, rabbis! That’s really nice! Thank you, rabbis!”

It wasn’t just the Kiddush Hashem that we generated, it was also the lesson my father taught me. “It’s the right thing to do!” Internalize what you were taught and let it become part of who you are.

Someone once told me that one of the things that makes my father so special is that despite him being the administrator of a nursing home, he still maintains his original training as a social worker. Every morning, he makes rounds around the nursing home to check on all the residents and patients, to offer them a pleasant word and to see how they are doing. I have been told by numerous people, including some notable Monsey personalities, “I spent time in the nursing home recuperating. Your father treated me like royalty.”

As Angelou said: “…But they will always remember how you made them feel!”

It’s always nice when a child has nachas from his parents!

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice, as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments, Rabbi Staum can be reached at: 914-295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivational speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience. Rabbi Staum can be reached at: [email protected] Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info

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