April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A series of events brought me to Hackensack Hospital to train as a chap­lain. One does not need to be a priest or a rabbi to be a chaplain (contrary to what many believe), but one does have to want to help people on an emotional and/or spiritual level as they struggle with various challenges.

Very often in the hospital, I respond to emergency cases, in addition to visiting the list of patients I am assigned to. The list con­tains the person’s name, bed number, and re­ligion. This list is not limited to Jews; I visit peo­ple of all faith denominations and am learning so much from meeting each of them. Most people welcome and appreciate my visit even though many have not specifically requested it.

One day, I walked into a patient’s room. The only information I knew was that this per­son’s name was A.D., he was a Roman Catho­lic and was in bed number two. Within min­utes of entering the room A.D. told me that he had a form of cancer, had been in the hospital for many days already, and was in much pain. He began to cry. He vented out his feelings of how he has been coping with his illness and how it has affected him. Once his tears began to subside, he then asked me if I was Jewish. I responded in the affirmative, to which he re­plied, “I love the Jewish people. I am an electri­cian (profession has been changed to preserve identity). I know that if I do good business with the Jewish people, I will have a good name. I know the Jewish people all look out for each other and help each other out. I do a lot of work for Jewish people. I am wondering, do you know Rabbi Simon?”

I told A.D. that in fact I did hear of Rabbi Si­mon, know of his wonderful reputation, and that many of my friends go to his weekly lec­tures, but I do not personally know him.

A.D. said through his tears, “I love Rabbi Si­mon. I do a lot of work for him. I would love it if you could please call him and tell him I am in the hospital.”

I really could not believe what I was hear­ing. Of all people, A.D., a Roman Catholic, wanted me to call a rabbi….???!!! I thought it was a bit bizarre, but told him I would surely do that favor for him.

A.D. then continued and said, “When you call Rabbi Simon, ask him who his favorite electrician is. I know he will answer with my name. When he does, please tell him that I am in the hospital and I would very much appreci­ate a call from him.”

I really could not believe what I was about to do here, but decided to pursue the mission. I received Rabbi Simon’s phone number and decided to call.

“Hi Rabbi Simon. You do not know me at all. My name is Debby Pfeiffer. I am a chaplain-intern in Hackensack Hospital.” I then paused, getting ready to ask him the question that I couldn’t believe I even had the guts to ask…. “May I ask you a question? Who is your favorite electrician?”

Rabbi Simon paused, sounded a bit con­fused, and I think was a bit dumbfounded at this question coming out of left field. He an­swered, “A.D. Why???”

I then answered that A.D. was in Hacken­sack Hospital, I had just met him, and that he would truly appreciate a call from him.

Rabbi Simon paused and chuckled. “Me?” he said. “Why would he want me to call him? He is my electrician. What did I ever do for him?”

I told Rabbi Simon that obviously some­how and in some way he had made an impact on A.D.’s life; so much so that he was crying to me telling me how much he would appreciate a phone call from him!

Rabbi Simon was in shock. He never had such an incident occur to him in all of his years of being a rabbi. We chatted for a few mo­ments longer, both of us continuing to grap­ple with the incident that had occurred. Rabbi Simon truly did not know what exactly it was that he possibly could have done to A.D. to ac­count for this reaction. We finally concluded that one never knows the lasting impression an individual could make on another by just being who you are and sometimes by going a bit out of your way to be kind. I gave Rabbi Simon A.D.’s phone number and wished him luck on the call.

The next day, I walked back into A.D.’s room. A.D. burst into tears again and pro­ceeded to tell me how not only did Rabbi Si­mon call him, but he had come to visit him. He was touched beyond words. He continued to say how much he loves the Jewish people and all that they represent. I asked him if he would like me to say a Psalm with him. (Many peo­ple of various faith denominations do appreci­ate hearing Psalms and often will even request me to recite some). He said he would love it. After reading a Psalm with him, A.D. took my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “Debby, I will never forget this, ever. Thank you.”

One can take many crucial lessons from this story. For myself, I learned how important it is to treat every single person, no matter who or what they are, with utmost respect. Wherev­er we go, people are always looking and judg­ing us. We make impressions on people all the time based on the words we use and how we treat them. Sometimes, saying a few small words to another or doing a small act of kind­ness impacts another in a way that we never realized or could ever have imagined. It could create a lasting impression both on an individ­ual level and reflect collectively on us as Jew­ish people. I read in a book written by John Maxwell entitled, 25 Ways to Win with People, a beautiful quote: “My potential is God’s gift to me. What I do with my potential is my gift to him.” We are all accountable to God for all the talents we have in our lives. When we use our talents and do the best in all that we do, it will overflow into the lives of those around us. By treating others as important and giving them our best, everyone is bound to gain. What a val­uable lesson to remember for ourselves and to teach others.

By Debby Pfeiffer

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