Thursday, October 26, 2006

The value of a friendly hello

From my friend Fred M.:
Shmuel (Sammy) Braun (not his real name), the owner of a ritual slaughter plant in Argentina, was generally the last person to leave every night. The entire area was surrounded by a tall chain link fence and everyone entered through a wrought iron gate in the front, near the parking lot. The guard at the front gate, Domingo, knew that when Sammy left in the evening, he could lock the gate and go home.
One evening as Sammy was leaving, he called out to the guard, "Good night, Domingo, you can lock up and go."
"No," Domingo called back, "not everyone has left yet."
"What are you talking about," Sammy said, "everyone left two hours ago!" "It is not so," Domingo said, "One of the shochtim (ritual slaughterers), Rabbi Berkowitz, hasn't left yet."
"But he goes home every day with the other shochtim, maybe you just didn't see him," Sammy said.
"Believe me, I am positive he didn't leave yet," the guard insisted. "We better go look for him."
Sammy knew that Domingo was reliable. He decided not to argue, but instead got out of his car and rushed back to the office building with Domingo. They searched the dressing room for Rabbi Berkowitz. He wasn't there.
They ran to where the animals were slaughtered, but he wasn't there either. They searched the truck dock, then the packing house, going from room to room. Finally they came to the huge walk-in freezer where the large slabs of meat were kept frozen. They opened the door and to their shock and horror they saw Rabbi Berkowitz rolling on the floor, trying desperately to keep himself warm. They ran over to him, lifted him off the floor and helped him out of the freezer, past the thick heavy door that had locked behind him. They wrapped blankets around him and made sure he was warm and comfortable.
Sammy Braun was incredulous. "Domingo," he asked, "how did you know Rabbi Berkowitz hadn't left? There are over two hundred workers here every day. Don't tell me you know the comings and goings of every one of them?"
The guard's answer is worth remembering.
"Every morning when that rabbi comes in, he greets me and says hello. He makes me feel like a person. And every single night when he leaves he tells me, 'Have a pleasant evening.' He never misses a night - and to tell you the truth, I wait for his kind words. Dozens and dozens of workers pass me every day - morning and night, and they don't say a word to me. To them I am a nothing. To him, I am a somebody.
"I knew he came in this morning and I was sure he hadn't left yet, because I was waiting for his friendly good-bye for the evening!"
It was Rabbi Berkowitz's genuine regard for another human being that literally saved his life.     (The foregoing true story is documented in Reflections of the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, published by Artscroll.)


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