The Hero I Saw on the Way to Gan Today
If I had my druthers, I would never be the one who takes my kids to gan.
I feel like it’s hard enough just getting out of bed when I am sooo tired. And I don’t just have to get out of bed, I have to find the other shoe, the clean kippah, the not-squished water bottle, and then negotiate with a three-year-old whether he or I will put the oh-meal in the microwave this morning. And then, on top of all that, to actually spend the half an hour (I timed it) walking my kids to gan and back is, like, adding insult to injury.
But this morning was one of those mornings when I had no choice. It was either take the kids to gan myself or spend the morning with them at home.
So we starting off on our way, and a few steps from our house I passed by a father with three young sons in tow who was yelling “Great! Now we are going to be late again! If you kids would please finally stop joking around!”
Is that what I sound like, when I sound like that? I wondered.
And I remembered something which had made me made me sigh out loud when I read it this past Shabbat in Binah Magazine.
Social worker, Tzipora Shub wrote, “There are so many things throughout the day that I want to ‘have done.’ In the morning, I want to have gotten my kids off to school and myself off to work…At night I want to have gotten through homework and bath time and bedtime. Then I want to have washed dishes and folded my laundry and made my phone calls. On Thursdays, I want to have gotten my grocery shopping done. Before Shabbos I want to have done my cooking and to have cleaning my kitchen.
“I often try to slow down, in fear that I spend too much time ‘getting things done’ and not enough time just doing them. And I am finding that it makes a big difference–when I give baths and actually enjoy watching my kids play and splash water all over the floor; when I wash dishes and pay attention to the sudsy water foaming over my hands and the way the dishes sparkle as they get clean; when I savor bedtime long enough to appreciate the sweet sounds of a small voice saying Shema and little arms around my neck hugging me good night…”
And so, this morning on the way to gan, I decided that even though I was sooo tired, I would not just dream of having done this walk to gan already. I decided to slow down and actually enjoy my kids and the cute stuff they say as we walked along, noticing cats and pinecones and frost-dusted aloe vera plants. Funny how a little mental switch like that can really improve the quality of a moment (or 30 minutes worth of moments) by about 200%.
When we got to the gate of Yaakov’s gan, I rang the bell by the gate and waited to be buzzed in, when a man asked me in Russian-accented Hebrew if I had already rung the bell. I turned towards him, and realized I was standing next to a true hero, a man who had risked his life to observe mitzvot and live as a Jew while spending over a decade in Soviet prisons.
After the former refusenik brought his grandson into the gan, I saw how he noticed his grandson had dropped his coat on the stairs. And I saw how, patiently, with the slightest touch of joy even, he picked the coat up and walked back to the gan and carefully hung it up on the coat hooks.
Imagine, I thought, how this man had dreamed of this moment. To be living in Israel, free to live a Jewish life, seeing his children and grandchildren growing up as observant Jews. For him, the Geula, the sweet long-awaited redemption, had arrived.
And he felt it more than ever on these mornings when he walked with his grandson to gan, hand in hand.