The other day driving my daughter home from school, I see a new anonymous face holding a sign on the street asking for money. After wondering for a moment about what happened to the previous man, I began to judge him.
Is he really deserving of my $1.00?
Then I stop myself. Who I do think I am? Peering through a car window for 15 seconds evaluating the story of his life without knowing one single detail about him. I am certainly not the decent kind Jew that I purported to be last week walking into synagogue greeting everyone in my comfort zone with a hearty “Shabbat Shalom!”
I cringe at the thought of God seeing me in this moment. The light will be changing soon and I don’t have time to grab my purse, reach into my wallet and give him a dollar.
What can I give him instead?
In that split second, I wave and smile. In return the face in front of me lights up. The wrinkles crinkle and a mouthful of teeth appear. He responds with a wave and a smile back.
Suddenly instead of looking at him, I am seeing him and he in return is seeing me. We are two of God’s creations intersecting at the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente.
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, the leader of religious Jewry following the destruction of the Second Temple, was known to always greet whomever he came across on the street regardless of their station in life. I have often wondered why? Clearly he was unbelievably busy. He did not need to garner votes for his next election; his position was appointed. Plus, he did not have a cadre of security vetting his every move. He could have been putting himself in unwanted danger.
My guess is that he believed that each person deserved his attention. And by acknowledging them with a hello, he was letting them know how worthy they truly are. He was letting them know by a simple act, that God knows we are equal, but now WE are in on the secret too.
Who do you look at each day and never see? Now is the time to say hello. Then…you are in.