July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The 11-year old child went to school and told his wonderful rebbe that he was taking a mini-vacation with his family for the weekend. The rebbe, with much excitement (and perhaps partly in jest) asked the child to bring him back a souvenir. “Bring me back a rock!” he suggested. The child agreed.

On the vacation, the child was so excited to please his rebbe. He looked high and low to find the perfect rock to bring back. After much searching, the child found the quintessential rock! When he returned to school, he made sure to give it to the rebbe immediately. The rebbe was very flattered that the child remembered; he examined the rock, placed it in his bag and thanked him profusely for the souvenir.

Fast forward several months. It was the first day of a brand new school year. As is typical, the child was quite anxious and nervous as to what would await him on the first day of school—new teachers, a new class, a new routine. He left for school with a bit of a stomachache, and a nervous look was apparent on his face. However, the child came home from school that day surprisingly in a great mood and seemed to have had a spectacular day! As his mother was putting him to bed that night the child said: “Mommy, I saw my rebbe from last year at minyan.” (Note: Minyan is a prayer service. Generally, once the service begins, one is not allowed to speak. Boys of a certain age begin their day at school with minyan.) “Rebbe tapped me on the shoulder, reached into his bag, pulled out the rock that I gave him from last year, winked his eye at me, smiled and walked away.”

The child was glowing as he was telling the story.

No money was spent. Not even a word was spoken.

The rebbe did not realize that his small action communicated a huge feeling of value to the child. The child felt like a star. The child told his mother that he would always remember that moment.

Successful relationships are built by making people feel important.

Often, in the hospital, a patient or their family member will say to me, ”I am sure you have heard this kind of story before. You probably have heard this a million times.” And my response is, “No. Each person is different. No two people or situations can ever be the same, as similar as things might seem. And right now, it’s about you and no one else.” Taking, and making, the time to hear their personal story is crucial.

A chaplain may have heard the “same” story, a doctor may have given out the “same” diagnosis, a teacher may have seen the “same” learning pattern, behavioral issue or struggle; a therapist may have heard about the “same” concern, but we need to remember that all people are not and cannot be the “same.” And more importantly, no one should feel that they are a diagnosis, label or statistic.

All people want to know, and feel, that they matter, as a person, patient, student, friend or otherwise. Everyone has it in their power to convey that feeling to another. That is the key to building strong, lasting relationships and making connections with others. How you (as a person and a professional) make people feel is the mark you will forever leave behind.

And it might only need to be conveyed through a simple, little rock.

[Author note: The rock story is a true account of one rebbe’s outstanding dedication to his students at RYNJ.]

By Debby Pfeiffer


Debby Pfeiffer is a board-certified chaplain working at Morristown Medical Center through its affiliation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ. She resides in Bergenfield, New Jersey, with her husband and children. She can be reached at [email protected].

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