His: Our synagogue is part of an Interfaith Hospitality Network – which means that once a year, our shul hosts families in need. In need of shelter, in need of food, in need of towels and blankets and baby gear, and a ride to the Laundromat.
So Friday afternoon, Deb and another friend of ours cooked an enormous tray of baked ziti and lasagna, made a huge salad and brought it, with our two youngest boys and her young kids, to the synagogue to spend dinner and a few hours with some families whose circumstances are very different than our own. Deb explained to our sons what we were doing, and why.
Our middle child, ever curious, had a lot of questions. “Are they poor?” “Can they go to school?” “They don’t have a home?” “How much does it cost to have a home?” He was literally shaking in anticipation of how sad they must be, and perhaps even fear of being so close to such dire straits.
The questions kept coming, and every time a car pulled up, he would point and whisper to my wife, “Are they the poor people?” Deb tried to teach him to be discreet, and to use the proper terminology – our guests. She also explained that people fall on hard times. We did a few years ago, and were lucky to have supportive friends and family. These people are in a rough patch, too. Though Deb and I both know just how lucky we are … and even during the scariest times of my unemployment, we never forgot that.
I arrived after work, midway through the meal, and saw a slew of kids ranging in age from 2 – 12, all eating together. And soon, their post-dinner restless engines got going. Our middle son, age 7, took a particular liking to a little boy a year younger than him. You would never have known they weren’t longtime buddies. Within 5 minutes, they were inseparable, having bonded over a plate of pasta, followed by a game of soccer and running shirtless through a hose.
The evening came to a close and we said goodbye. Our son still had questions, but he was no longer afraid.
Blessing – Picked up our oldest from sleep away camp today. He was happy to see us, thrilled to hug his brothers, but says he wants to go back next summer.