Tablet magazine carries the story of Isaac Theil (which is on the NY Daily News, as well), who was innocently riding home to Brooklyn on the Q train when a young black man (tired from a long day at college, it turns out) fell asleep on his shoulder. For 30 minutes. Theil’s response? “He must have had a long day, let him sleep.” Theil thought nothing of it, got off at his stop and went home.
Not so, the passenger across the way, who thought this was an incredible act of kindness. He or she snapped a photo and posted it to an Internet sharing site, where it became an overnight sensation — nearly 5,000,000 views and counting.
I hope other people are also kind of wondering why this is such a big deal. I’m pretty sure the same has happened to me, and the most I would do is try to move him without waking him. Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to wake somebody up? It’s just that we are told to be careful about gezel shayna, disturbing someone’s sleep.
It reminds me of a letter that was in Ami magazine last week, from a Rabbi Yehoshua Ottensoser of Lakewood who is the Judaic principal of a school in Yardley, PA. He needed something notarized, and found a place in Yardley that had a notary public on the premises. The notary took the documents and prepared to stamp them. The Rabbi looked at him and asked, “don’t you want ID?”
The notary responded, “of course, but aren’t you a Rabbi?”
As Rabbi Ottensoser said, our communities “have had our share of self-inflicted black eyes.” The media has a field day every time a Rabbi or visibly Orthodox Jew is accused of wrongdoing, and we may even think ourselves that we have completely failed to create a positive perception of our world. As he wrote:
But then there are the bike-riding employees, cab drivers, bus drivers and of course notary publics, the simple average Joes (or Ahmeds) on the street who still very much believe in us and generally only think of us as people of a higher calling who can be unquestionably trusted and even asked to pray on their behalf.
We still are, by and large, the type of people who will help restore even a New Yorker’s faith in humanity. And if we live our lives remembering that we might become the next viral sensation for doing the right thing, rather than the wrong thing, that should prompt us to try to make the right choice at each and every moment.