Bob From Iran
The chilaquiles with green salsa, scrambled eggs, side of beans, and coffee were delicious, but have now reached the next phase of their existence as my stomach contains a chemistry experiment. I have a twenty minute walk home from the diner. Should be long enough to settle my stomach.
Some music will help. I like to match music to what I’m doing or feeling, which often leads to analysis paralysis. I search for a bit, then give up, hit shuffle, and let the fates decide.
I hear someone yelling, but I don’t look. It’s a skill I’ve developed over the years. Don’t look, it’s none of my business, don’t get involved. The person keeps yelling and now is including what I’m wearing to get my attention. And stupidly, I look, and take out my headphones.
A man across the empty street begins telling me that the electric wheelchair he’s pushing is out of juice. He tells me that the man in the chair is named Bob. And all Bob wanted was some Carl’s Jr. Since he doesn’t drive he usually just wheels over on his own. But the battery died unexpectedly on the return trip.
The guy found Bob thirty minutes ago and pushed him until here, but he needs to leave. He’s done enough and has his own life. He asks me if I can push Bob home. And before I can answer “No” I hear myself saying “Yes”.
It’s important to put good things out in the world. It’s so easy to hurt others with our words and actions, whether consciously or not. That’s why doing a mitzvah (an act of kindness) once a day is my general guiding philosophy.
So, I agree to push Bob home. The guy thanks me and leaves.
I introduce myself. And so does Bob. As I look over his wheelchair, looking for disconnected wires or switches accidentally set to off, Bob tells me that he moved to Los Angeles from Iran in the 1970s because of the revolution. He’s Jewish and no longer felt safe there.
I tell Bob that I’m a Jew from Kentucky. He’s surprised that Jews live there, which is a common reaction. I tell him I’m surprised that Jews live in Iran. Bob says God brought us together. We talk on and on about Judaism and the weather as I push him slowly.
Thirty minutes later and we’ve traveled a little less than a mile.
I get Bob into his building’s elevator and ask him how he charges the wheelchair. He tells me not to worry about it. He usually leaves it out in the hallway. Oy vey… I ask again and he says there’s an extension cord in his apartment. I push the wheelchair into his place and plug it in.
Bob wants to bless me with his Torah. He points to a drawer and asks me to hand him the contents. I hand him a yarmulke, a tallit, and his Torah. Bob puts the yarmulke on his head, the tallit around his neck, then puts his Torah to my forehead and recites some Hebrew. I can’t make out which prayer it is, so I mumble along matching any words I recognize.
Bob thanks me and I leave. I feel good knowing that I’ve done my mitzvah for today. And it seems my stomach has settled.