Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unusual Talent / Unexpected Dance

It's good to know that even in the midst of the War, normal things still happen every day in Israel. Life goes on. It must.

The other night I was running some errands in the normally busy German Colony (Hamoshava Germanit) - which I must admit has been abnormally quiet during this long summer War. That night however, it was bustling. Israeli families with exuberant "on-summer-holiday-from-school" kids, along with a few tourists, made the street an alive and happy place - like it used to be.  It was nice to see!!

So, rather than a War story, I want to share a little vignette about normal Israeli life and how it works here. But first let me digress a moment to share a necessary personal part of this tale.

All my life I have had this unusual "ability" or "talent" (smile) to unconsciously take on whatever the person I am walking with, is doing.  By that I mean, if the person is limping, pretty soon I find myself limping. Or if they list to one side, I may find myself tipping in that same direction.  You get the picture.

As you might guess, it's been the source of both amusement and embarrassment. Mostly it's been humorous, and an opportunity to show, well, I guess, empathy. It doesn't happen all the time, just once in awhile.

Nu, that night I was walking on the sidewalk and passed an older woman who was struggling with some very heavy bags. Pre-occupied in thought as I passed her, I suddenly realized she really was struggling. Quickly turning around to see if I could help, I saw her stop and drop her bags but before I could even start out, an older man rushed up, took her bags, asked where she was going, and took off down the street in the direction of the bus stop, heavy bags in hand.

I watched her for a moment to make sure she was ok, and I saw she was not. The man was half way down the street, but she was leaning up against the wall, trying to walk...but just couldn't.  So I ran to her and offered her my arm to help her get to her destination.  She silently took my arm and I could see she was in a lot of pain, too much pain to even talk.

Immediately however, there was a real problem. Heavy in the legs, with feet that turned inward, she simply could hardly walk. Not only that, when she did try, her gait was very disconnected, unstable, and unpredictable. We started to fall all over each other and I wondered how on earth would we get down the street to the bus stop.

Suddenly I remembered my "skill" !! Quickly I willed myself to fall in line with her gait, and I was able to match it immediately. This time it was done consciously but it kind of felt like magic! Ha!

So there we were, making our way down the sidewalk like in a slow motion dance - a dance whose steps I certainly did not know on my own. I had to concentrate, but only once did we lose rhythm - she had to stop and rest and upon starting up again it took me 2-3 seconds to match her gait once more.

Truthfully, it was wonderful, and I laughed. Who would have thought this odd skill/talent/whatever could ever be used for good!  When we arrived at the bus stop I turned to look into her face, and instead of the contortion of pain, she was radiant. Her face was glowing as she planted a huge kiss on my cheek and thanked me and  asked about the bus route. Perhaps no one had ever walked with her quite like that before, and for a couple of moments, maybe she didn't feel alone in her pain.

I am not sharing this to say that I did something good. Not at all. I am sharing this to say this is just what life is like in Israel. While Israelis can be rude and pushy and blunt, if someone is hurting, instantly another will come to's part of the fabric of Israeli life.  We want to help, maybe because we all share in the hurting here in Israel..and we know what it feels like to be in pain of some kind.

But I am also telling the story, because .. IF you have some "unusual" talent, you just never know when it might make a difference in someone else's life. Maybe all that is needed is the right moment in lift the spirits of someone, to make life momentarily easier, to help them to know they are not alone. Even a two minute uneven, awkward - but definitely choreographed - dance down the street can perhaps change a feeling of helplessness to one of momentary triumph.  I hope that happened to this sweet lady.. after all we were the cat's meow on that sidewalk in Jerusalem! I hope she laughed and the rest of her evening was happier, and she knew people cared about her struggle.

A few hours later I was huddled with my neighbors in the stairwell of our building, waiting out the rocket our jammies, getting to know one another.  I sure hope the old lady had a safe room and didn't have to go into a stairwell.

Life in Israel. It's good.