Over ten years ago I decided to quit my job and go travelling around the world. Just before I went on my travels I flew to visit my cousin in Tel Aviv. On the flight back to London I was asked if I minded moving seats as a married couple wanted to sit together. I obliged and they moved me to a seat next to a very religious looking man. Even though I had spent a week in Tel Aviv I had not met any Jews as religious as this man appeared to be.
Having gone to a non-Jewish school; brought up in a non observant home, I had never spoken to a religious Jew before, and thought he looked completely antiquated. After a few moments the man looked up at me, smiled, said HELLO and introduced himself. The thought going through my mind was what does this man want from me? We could not been more different in appearance, he with a long beard, white shirt and black suit and I with long hair in a pony tail wearing jeans. However despite all of our external differences I really warmed to him and we ended up talking for the entire journey.
At the end of the flight he asked me for my phone number so he could stay in contact with me. Although I was suspicious of his intentions I gave him my number all the same, as I reasoned that I could always avoid his call if need be.
I spent the next seven months traveling the world and did not think of him once. At the end of my trip I decided that I really missed my friends and family and decided to surprise them and come home a week early. My family all ate lunch together to celebrate my safe return and just as we were finishing our meal the phone rang. My father picked up the phone and passed the handset to me. I was in shock...It was the Rabbi I met on the plane. How did he know I was home? What did he want?
We spoke briefly and we agreed that we would stay in contact. For the next few years the Rabbi phoned me from time to time. I ended up calling him my guardian Angel as he always called me when I was facing something challenging. He was always pleasant and never judgmental.
One time he told me that he was flying to London and I decided to meet him at the airport. This ended up being a common occurrence and once or twice a year I would meet him for a chat at various airports. On one occasion he flew into Gatwick and was planning to go to Newcastle to visit his poorly father. I collected him and decided that we would do a road trip together.
During the journey we talked at length and when we finally arrived in Gateshead at about 2am we decided to stay at his parent’s house. As we entered the house I could not get over the huge quantity of books lining the walls. Who was his father? I left the following morning and drove back home mulling over my experience. Several weeks later I received a call from the Rabbi saying that his father had passed away. He told me that although his father was going to be buried in Israel there would be a something happening in Stamford Hill. I had never been to Stamford Hill before, and I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Over the next few weeks I saw numerous newspaper articles about the death of his father, I even saw a photo of a sea of black hats with a little red Yamulke in the midst, which I recognized as my own.
Unfortunately I never met my Rabbi’s father, the late Gateshead Rov, Rabbi Betzalel Rakow, but I know that he must have been a great man, to have a son like my Rabbi.
Over the years that followed I became slowly more religious, and now thank G-d I am married to a wonderful woman, have three beautiful children and live a religious life. Words cannot express how grateful I am that I met my Rabbi, whose kind words and determination to stay in contact with me completely turned my life around.
One can never know the long lasting effects even for many generations to come of just saying hello and a few kind words to a stranger.
Try it! All it takes is ONE WORD to make a person feel good!
Just One Word is a project of The Lite House. Do you have a story where a good word changed your life? Email it to thelitehouse1 [at] gmail.com.