While my mother did not teach me how to bake a challah or keep a kosher kitchen, and had no wise insights to share about mikvah when the time came – she taught me a much more important lesson. My mother taught me through her own actions about chesed (kindness). Judiasm recognizes the value of this and stresses the outward nature it must take on. I am happy to share some ways in which my mother has always lived this, and allowed me to learn by osmosis something which I am so blessed to have made a part of my life.
I grew up in a house about a mile from my high school, which quickly became an easy gathering place. My mom loved having everyone over and always made sure there was a tub of red vines and plenty of Dr. Pepper (our snacks of choice). If we had a long day at a practice, rehersal, competition or performance, she made sure the hot tub was ready for us upon our return too. Not only did she make our house a welcome space for everyone (one of my friends even had a suitcase and toiletries in the spare bedroom just in case it was to late to drive the dark roads back to her house), she made sure to know who was there. She became everyone’s second mom, and all of my friends, and my brother’s before me, called her Mom or Mommie, never Mrs. LastName. To this day part of reconnecting with old friends, is them asking me “how is mom?” and being genuinely interested in the answer.
In fact, I recently was able to spend a few hours reconnecting with one of my closest friends from high school, who had a particularly close connection with my mother. He shared something new with me, which I think will help further this post. My friend studied theatre in college, and was a part of a very small production in which the main characters were very culturally Jewish. After the show, some Jewish patrons asked my friend (who does not “look Jewish” by anyone’s stereotypes), if he was Jewish. He replied that he was not but that he had been raised by a Jewish mother enough to own that experience. It was an important moment for him and truly speaks to how my mother engaged with my friends.
Without a house full of teenagers and both of her kids living in different time zones, she has to find other recipients of her chesed. Now she makes baskets for her coworkers when they have a baby, and makes them little presents for holidays. Mom always sends birthday, anniversary, holiday and just because cards. If she sees something someone close to her once mentioned they were looking for, she buys it to give them when they are having a rough day. She takes her friends shopping, and when they don’t have the right size in something they love – she goes to a different store later to buy it as a surprise. I got to witness the giving of one such shirt this week, and how much my mother’s friend’s face lit up as she opened it and then how much my mom’s did in return.
That is what true chesed is all about. Doing it purely for the sake of making someone else happy. My mother taught me through her actions that money is nothing in exchange for making someone’s day a little brighter. I hope that is something which I never forget, and am able to pass along to my children as seemlessly as she passed it on to me.
Happy mothers day to all our readers, and espescially my Mommie who truly lives gimilut chasadim (acts of kindness) every moment, of every day.