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The Woman Next Door

June 12, 2019 | by Emuna Braverman

A Kiddush Hashem in Lakewood, New Jersey.

I spent Shabbos and the holiday of Shavuot in an unfamiliar neighborhood. We rented a house so that some of our children and grandchildren could join us. Everyone in the area was super friendly, taking the initiative to come introduce themselves to us and to ensure that we would avail ourselves of their hospitality, be it to borrow something or to send the kids to play in their yards. We were excited and impressed - and immediately began to see if there were any houses for sale in the neighborhood!

The home next door to us was particularly tempting (to visit not to buy). In the yard was a trampoline, a swing set and various toys and games that were particularly enticing to young children. The owner was as also very friendly and invited the kids to come over and play.

They didn’t have to be asked twice. They played for hours on end. While we relaxed in our yard, perhaps a little too comfortable, perhaps enjoying each other’s company a little too much, perhaps forgetting that young children can’t be left too long without adult supervision. (It was, after all, a long time ago that we read Lord of the Flies!)

Apparently a small fight broke out between one of the boys whose backyard everyone was playing in and one of my five-year-old grandsons. My 10-year-old grandson immediately jumped to his cousin’s defense (good quality) and tackled the other boy (not quite as good). At this point the (more attentive) mother next door was compelled to intervene.

And she came over to speak to us. Now when I try to imagine myself in that position, I imagine all sorts of negative and aggressive ways to responding - frustration, assertions of the primacy of my claim on my backyard, mutterings about the poor character traits of these visiting children, and definitely sending them home.

The woman next door did none of this. She was so gracious, so friendly, so calm. She spoke of their great pleasure in sharing their backyard, of a slight difficulty that had arisen and of the necessity of being a little more diligent in monitoring our children’s behavior.

We were humbled (and humiliated). We couldn’t be more apologetic and more appreciative - not just of generosity in sharing her backyard but of her generosity of tone and manner. We all learned a lesson in graciousness and kindness - and anger management!

And we were chagrined about our own cavalier attitude. The kids were immediately brought home but the next day when they went back to play they were welcomed - and we made sure an adult was with them.

We salute the home owner on the corner of Bellinger and Albert in Lakewood, New Jersey. Though her actions may seem small, they were big in our eyes. She created a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of the Almighty’s name, not to mention providing us with a way to entertain the kids all Yom Tov afternoon!

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