Sunday (December 6) was a day, “Beyond any Expectations!” Wow, I may even describe it as an overwhelming day. I would not. I would like to share with you just two human stories of many.
One of the rules the Veterans’ Organization had was that we were not allowed to open our space before 1PM. They wanted the veterans to be entertained ﬁrst, fed a hardy turkey lunch, and then come to pick out clothes for themselves in our space. We were sad when we had to repeat this line of “authoritative regulations” to many veterans.
At one point, Sherry Levitt, an AT member and volunteer, came to share with me that a little girl who was walking away holding her tall father’s hands, had wanted a particular doll and Sherry had to ask her to come back later. I immediately asked Sherry to please run after the girl and give her the doll. The little girl and her father were so grateful for our present.
Another time I saw a veteran in a wheelchair sitting at the entrance to our space. It was only 11:45AM. He understood that we could not open the doors before 1PM. He explained that at his shelter he can get food, but can not get clothes, and therefore he prefers to be the ﬁrst in line and go to get the food later. Tears welled up in my eyes. I asked him? “Would you like a pair of pants? What color and size? A sweater? A jacket? How about a blanket?” His tired eyes looked at me with hope as I went looking for exactly what he wanted. When I returned with double the amount of everything he had asked for he was so grateful.
I suddenly felt an uncontrollable need to cry. I left our hanger. I took a walk so as not to cry in front of people I know.
I saw men, women and children waiting in long lines for their food. By the time I returned about 15 minutes later, there was a long line forming at our hanger also. I could not handle it well. It reminded me of pictures from the Great Depression and the Holocaust.
Why? Why do these veterans who gave us so much have to suffer like this? Yes, I understand, some have physical and mental issues. Yes, the government and many professionals are now helping more, thank God.
But there is still soooooo much human suffering that is so hard to handle. By the time I got home, I was truly wiped out, yet somewhat satisﬁed that just for a little while we made a difference in the lives of over 1,000 souls.
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.