by Chaya Sachs | June 24 2021
I wasn’t rich, but I had everything. My family never lacked for food to eat or clothes to wear. Even though I had seven sisters, I knew that my parents would give me a beautiful wedding. Where did I get this confidence? Growing up, I always knew that my community was there for me in the smallest details of life. From Hatzoloh to the Gemachs, we took care of our own. As long as I stayed within the perimeters of everything that was expected of me, I did not have to worry that my basic needs would be met or that I would have someone to help me whenever I needed it. I belonged—until I didn’t.
Fast forward to the life I chose when I followed my path out of the community. It was necessary for me to leave in order to follow my dreams, but I never cut off my relationships with my family and my friends. I sometimes even called on the Chaveirim when I needed help. It was not easy to leave the safety and security of the cocoon I grew up in. The world is a big and scary place, and it takes time to find true friends who will support you in times of need.
One cold winter day, I went to start my car, and it was dead. My first thought was that the battery must be old, so my roommate drove me to a local repair shop where it could be tested. Nothing was wrong with the battery. Now I was in a tough situation because I needed to take my car somewhere for an appointment, and it sat useless in the driveway. I called the Chaveirim and AAA, but they both told me it would be a long wait before they could be there for help. Even worse, since I already knew that the problem wasn’t the battery, they would probably just have to tow me to a shop where the repairs would be more than I could afford and likely cost more than the car was worth. I felt very alone.
When I hung up my phone, I noticed some action going on in the driveway next door to my building. There was an older African American man leaning against the side of his car while someone else was working under the hood of his vehicle. I thought, Why don’t I try to see if they can help? I was desperate, and it was worth going outside of my comfort zone. As I sauntered over, the man leaning against his car looked up and asked, “Can I help you?” I simply replied, “I hope so.” As I related the situation to him, he opened his trunk and took out a box of tools and walked over to my car promising to take a look and see if he could do something.
I couldn’t believe it! Five minutes later, this lovely man turned the key in the ignition of my old car and it started! I asked him how I could repay him for his amazing favor, and he shrugged saying, “This is what neighbors do. We look out for each other. I just fixed a loose screw in your car for you today. I’m grateful I could help.” As I thanked him profusely, I felt a new place open up in my heart, and I knew I had learned a deep lesson that day: I had learned what a neighbor really is. I used to think it was the people I knew who lived close to me, but my horizons had now expanded beyond the physical borders of the world where I grew up.
We can create community wherever we are, and wherever we live, there are people who are kind and good and helpful. For the first time in many years, I realized that I didn’t have to return to the cocoon of my Hasidic community or reach out to the Chaveirim when I was in a tough place. I’ve been helped by people when I least expected it and from those whom I never thought would care about me. I’ve seen my prayers answered in direct, personal, and detailed ways, and I’ve even discovered a friend in G-d as Shlomo ha Melech wrote in Proverbs 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The closest friend I’ve found since I’ve left the community is the Aibishter Himself. He has been and will always be faithful to me.
If you want to find out more, feel free to contact me at [email protected].