Leading the Blind

Blind

Waiting for the train this morning–on the platform, there is a blind woman.

The train pulls up, and I help the blind lady to the train door, saying “it’s just to the right.”

The blind lady gets on and staggers herself over to where the seats usually are right next to the door, but on this model of the train, it is just an empty space.

She goes across the aisle to the other side to try and sit down, and reaches out with her arm, but ends up touching this other lady’s head.

But the other lady is quite comfortable in her seat and doesn’t flinch or budge.

The funny (read sad) thing about this is that there an empty seat on the inside right next to her–but she doesn’t move over, nor does she direct the blind lady to the empty seat next to her or anyplace else either.

Actually, the lady sitting all comfy–doesn’t say a word–to the contrary, she nudges the blind lady away from her seat.

The blind lady is left standing there–groping for somewhere to go.

As the train lurches forward–beginning to moving out of the station–the blind lady make a shuffled dash heading for the other side of the train to try to feel for another seat–and she begins to stumble.

I jump up from the other side and having no time, awkwardly just grab for her hand, so she does not fall.

The lady is startled and pulls back, and I explain that I am just trying to help her get safely to a seat.

I end up giving her my seat–it was just easier than trying to guide her to another vacant one, and she sits down.

I was glad that I was able to do something to assist–it was a nice way to start out the week–even if only in a small way.

But honestly, I also felt upset at the other lady, who so blatantly just disregarded the needs of the handicapped.

I do not understand the callousness–doesn’t she realize that a person with a disability or handicap could be any one of us–even her.

My mind starting racing about what I had heard from the pulpit about sins of omission and commission, and I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help sort of staring at the lady who was all smug–wondering again and again about who she was, what was she thinking (or not), and basically is that what most people would do.

I watch other people help each other every day, and I’ve got to believe inside that most people are better than that.

(Source Photo: adapted from herewith attribution to Neils Photography)

Which Five Do You Keep?

So my father used to teach me that the Ten Commandments were divided with the first five being between man and G-d (e.g. “thou shalt not take the name of the L-rd, thy G-d, in vain”) and the second five being between man and man (e.g. “thou shalt not Kill”).

Note: The fifth one of “Honor they mother and father” is viewed as between man and G-d, since we honor our parents as partners with G-d in our creation and upbringing.

My father said well that some people keep the first five and some the second, but very few keep both sets.

I am aware of many examples of this from the “religious” Rabbis and Priests who sickeningly molest children to “unreligious” people who give charitably and do good deeds to others in countless of ways.

I do not know why most people cannot be both faithful to G-d and good to other people–are these somehow mutually exclusive in people’s minds? Is it somehow blasphemous to both worship G-d and genuinely respect and care for our fellow humans?

Perhaps, some think that if they are close to G-d, then other people are sort of besides the point, while others believe that if they act kindly to their fellow “man”, then they will be considered righteous in G-d’s eyes anyway.

The funny thing is that both–the ones that follow the laws having to do with G-d and those having to do with other people–seem to think that they are the “truly” righteous ones.

Today, I saw a an event that reminded me of this whole lesson and spiritual question, as follows:

A car pulls up in front of the house of worship and in the driving lane, just stops and double parks, even though, right there–and even closer yet to the house of worship–is an empty oversized space to just pull into.

The driver gets out and his wife gets out on the other side.

The car behind him beeps to let them know they are waiting to pass.

The man throws his hand up in a gesture of “too bad” and proceeds to escort his wife into the house of worship–all the while leaving his car blocking the driveway and the car behind him.

After about 5 minutes, the first driver finally comes back to move his car.

The second driver–of the car that has been waiting–goes up to driver of the first car and asks why he just left his car in the driving lane and didn’t even bother to pull over.

The first driver says that his wife can’t walk well and he wanted to escort her into the house of worship, and so the other car could wait until he returned.

The second driver is startled by this and says “but you saw I was behind you waiting and wanted to get in with my family to pray as well–why couldn’t you either circle back around or pull into the empty spot right there at the entrance?”

The first driver says, “well, you were the only other car behind me.”

By this time the second driver is clearly annoyed and says, “but I am a human being too!”

He continues clearly amazed at the callousness of the first and says, “how is it that you go to the house of worship, but you don’t care about another human being–how can you be so selfish?

The first driver raises his hand and flips it again indicating that he just didn’t care –going full circle to how this event began when he first stopped his car–and then he simply says as a matter of fact and sort of sarcastically “good day” and just walks away.

What an encounter with the first driver on his way to worship G-d, yet completely callous to his fellow human being waiting to do the same–he was following the first five commandments, but brushing aside the second five.

I wish for the day that people could embrace both sets of commandments! So that faith and decency could coexist, rather than battle in the hearts and soul of humans.

What a better world it could be…

(Source photo: here)

Under “The Thicker Skin”

Thicker_skin

Yesterday, I heard Pastor Robert Jeffress of a mega church in Dallas get on national television and tell Christians not to vote for a presidential candidate–Mitt Romney–because he’s a Mormon and went on to describe Mormonism as a cult.

What was so shocking was that there was no basis for the decision to vote or not to vote for someone based on political issues driving the discussion, it was purely one of religious intolerance.
I imagined how candidate Mitt Romney (and the Mormon establishment) must feel like to be subjected to a form of discrimination and stereotypical name calling just because of their religious faith.
Unfortunately, religious and other forms of bigotry and hatred are not new, but they are invective and undermining.
I personally remember a situation at a organization, where I was treated religiously unfairly.
There was a planned offsite meeting at the agency, and the meeting was going to run through lunch, so lunch was being ordered.
Being Jewish, I asked if a salad or tuna sandwich or anything Kosher or vegetarian could be made available so that I could participate. 
I was told by email that if I wanted anything special, I could bring it from home. 
Not a problem–I didn’t want to be a “Jewish problem”–I can certainly bring my own food and I did. 
However, when I got to the meeting and saw the lunch spread, the agency had ordered a special meal for someone else who was vegan–not a religious preference, just a dietary one.
Try imagining just for a second how it felt to be told that you could not be accommodated for anything kosher, but someone else would be “just because.” 
I brought this to the attention of the “powers that be,” but was told that I should go “develop a thicker skin.”
Well if the thicker skin means to become part of a group that practices intolerance and bigotry, it’s time to peel away that callous!
How people vote and how we treat our fellow man should not depend on their religion, where they come from, or the color of the skin.  
In a year, when the memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr. was unveiled on the National Mall, the dream for tolerance and freedom still has considerable room to blossom.
Hopefully, society wil continue to develop not a thicker skin, but a gentler kinder heart that embraces each, for what they can bring to the table. 
(Source Photo: here)