Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
~Adam Lindsay Gordon
As an expat living in another country, I had to be resilient and find my inner strength. Some might even call it courage to live outside one’s comfort zone. Simultaneously, I had to rely on the kindness of others to help me navigate the unfamiliar aspects of living abroad. I encountered many people who would go out of their way to lend a helping hand. I am grateful for the support they offered. Without their assistance, I would have encountered more obstacles and struggled more.
Sometimes it was as simple as helping me across the street. Huh? Did I say helping me across the street? Yes, I did. It was common to see 10 cars abreast in a road with only 4-5 non-designated lanes. Frequently, motorcycles and rickshaws weaved recklessly about and cars would go the wrong way on a one way road while large buses bullied their way through the congestion. Significant care needed to be taken to cross the street. One of my fellow expats was run down by a motorcyclist who left her lying vulnerable in the street. On several occasions, good Samaritans came to my aid. One older Indian gentleman calmly told me to wait and not be too eager to cross the street. When the traffic lessened, he escorted me across the street.
Other people went above and beyond. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t single out the the Bangalore Chabad rabbi, Tzvi, and his wife, Noa. Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for chochma (wisdom), bina (understanding) and daas (knowledge) that was chosen by its founder, Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812). Chabad or Lubavitch is the name of a movement of Orthodox Jews belonging to Hasidic Judaism who follow the teachings and customs taught by their rabbis. This movement puts an emphasis on religious study, hospitality, technological expertise, and optimism. Chabad rabbis are found throughout the world spreading their knowledge of Judaism. It is their custom to open their hearts and their homes to any Jews who want to connect with their Jewish identity.
While living in Bangalore, I shared a few meals with the Israeli rabbi and his family. Each time, I was treated to a bountiful feast and kind hospitality. Despite our differing beliefs, I never felt uncomfortable. The only barrier that potentially separated us was my inability to speak Hebrew and their limited command of the English language. Our desire to converse freely would have been enhanced if I had not let my Hebrew language skills go dormant.
Despite a few communication issues, we expressed most of what we wanted to say and hopefully the other parties understood the true intent of the other’s words. Actions oftentimes speak louder than words. Their generosity made up for any deficits.
Chanukah, a joyous festival that is usually shared with family was a pivotal moment in my life. I missed my family dearly. It was the first time in my life that I was not surrounded by my husband, 4 sons, extended family, and Jewish friends. I was able to spend the first part of the holiday with my husband. After Ira returned to the US, I was alone. Josh and Rachael were on their honeymoon and there were no Jews on the international school’s campus.
When the Chabad rabbi heard that I would be lighting the candles by myself, he immediately made plans to travel to my school. Schlepping two small children to the other side of Bangalore during rush hour traffic was an amazing feat. It took close to 2 hours to reach the school’s campus and an untold amount of time to return to his home.
As we lit the candles, sang Chanukah songs, and ate freshly baked sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), I understood the true meaning of kindness. Their presence provided an intangible essence and somehow made my Chanukah candles glow brighter. Their compassion and kindness washed away my loneliness and renewed my spirit. They gave of themselves without expecting anything in return. They were lending a helping hand with kindness. I reciprocated by sharing some Israeli chocolate coins wrapped in foil and acknowledged my gratitude.
If you’re looking for desert recipes for Chanukah, check out my Mom It Forward article- http://momitforward.com/chanukah-apple-latkes-and-sufganiyot
I wish all of my Jewish readers- Happy Chanukah. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season to my non-Jewish readers.