Confluence: Without a leg to stand on

…but yet, uplifted

By: Rabbi Dr David Fox

“…beyond that is my way of serving G-d by serving those in need.”

Having said farewell to her children and leaving them some cash, she made her way to the airport in a cab, unable to drive after breaking three toes from falling during her visit. A heavy boot braced her foot and her leg but made it impossible to operate a vehicle’s accelerator or break pedals. She had called the airline and ordered a wheelchair to take her to the plane and was dismayed when none showed up. Fortunately, the gate was not far from the security line so once she made it through the checkpoint, she hobbled to the waiting area and tried to relax the muscle strain and pain from the walk. As she sat there, she mused over the failure of the airline to provide the wheelchair and pondered the point of having had that challenge. Was there a message to be learned? Was there some meaning in having had to forego that more comfortable means of getting to the airline gate?

Hours later, as the plane prepared to land, and the captain announced the gate of arrival, she winced. They would be disembarking at a remote location and that meant almost a quarter mile of walking. If the airline did not have a wheelchair waiting, she would be in for real pain and discomfort. She reached into her wallet on a whim, double checking that her identification card had been returned to her at security, and then realised that she had given her last dollar to her children. She was traveling penniless, which under normal circumstances would have been trivial, but under the circumstances of needing to tip a wheelchair attendant, would have been embarrassing to her.

She reflected on how Hashem had spared her the embarrassment of not having money to tip, by seeing to it that no attendant had shown up at her departure. That felt somewhat relieving and meaningful, but now came the second challenge. If the airline provided her with a wheelchair upon arrival, she could not accept the ride for want of money, and yet even if no one showed up, she would have a very long walk which her doctors had told her to avoid. Limping off the plane, she was “pleased”, ironically, that once again there was no wheelchair waiting for her. She began hobbling along towards the distant exit.

A moment later, a wheelchair attendant spotted her and turned to her saying, “You should not be walking with that boot.” She explained that she had ordered a wheelchair, but it had not arrived, at which point the attendant said, “I am finished for the day and am returning to the airline desk, please sit down and I will take you.” The woman then explained that she could not accept the offer because she had no money on her and would not take advantage of this luxury in being unable to compensate the attendant.

The attendant smiled and said, “When I had to find a job to support my child, I looked for something where I could serve G-d. Helping people who cannot walk on their own is doing a holy deed. I do not ask for money from my passengers. I make a salary, which I need, but anything beyond that is my way of serving G-d by serving those in need. Let me take you please.”

As they moved through the corridors and throngs of rushing passengers, the attendant asked the woman if she needed to stop at a restroom or possibly get a cup of coffee at no charge. They talked about their children, about helping others, about finding meaning in their work, and about spiritual perspectives. The ride came to a smooth end, a waiting vehicle collected the weary but inspired traveler, and something much more meaningful crystallised about having had the gift of no money on that trip.

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