Several years ago an adult publicly berated me in front of more than a dozen other adults. One of my student’s parent, who I didn’t know very well, Mrs. Fox, witnessed the public scolding and within 24 hours called the adult to tell him/her that his/her behavior was way out of line and that he/she needed to apologize to me. In addition, Mrs. Fox called my principal and insisted that she call in the adult to apologize to me in person. Mrs. Fox then called me to make sure that I was okay and to assure me that I had done nothing wrong.
And then life went on.
Six months later, I experienced a broken engagement. While my close friends and immediate family were amazing, most people were extremely uncomfortable - understandably I guess. Not Mrs. Fox. She called to check in, not in a nosy intrusive way, but just out of concern, and then invited me to her home for Shabbat lunch.
“Any time,” she said. “And please call me Bev.”
And then life went on.
Until last month. Until Mrs. Fox passed away.
Mrs. Fox has touched the lives of many. As a wife, a mother, educator and community member she was loved and respected by all who knew her. She had a bounce to her step and an infinite amount of energy. And, when I did finally go to her house, for Sukkot lunch, I learned she was a fabulous cook – rivaled by her daughter Renana’s gift for baking
Whenever someone that I admire passes away, I think about how I can honor their memory. When my Bubbie died, I honored her by hosting meals for friends to celebrate Shabbat. When my Zadie died, I promised to be as generous as he was, giving charity to the homeless asking for a dollar because, as he used to say, “you never know who is the righteous one.”
I promise to honor Mrs. Fox by refusing to ignore injustice even when it would be easier to continue walking. I promise to make uncomfortable phone calls when someone has suffered: be it a break up or the loss of a loved one. I will comfort those in need to the best of my ability.
I have been lucky to know many amazing people who [hope to] influence change through politics, activism, volunteerism, teaching and preaching. However, what I learned from Mrs. Fox is that you change the world not through [only] addressing the meta issues, but by how you care for individuals in distress and need. I can’t help but think if every person in the world cared for one another the way that Mrs. Fox cared for the people she came into contact with, the global problems would work themselves out. Think about how many other people witnessed my scolding or knew about the broken engagement. They were all good people, but perhaps they were uncomfortable, perhaps they felt awkward, perhaps they didn’t have time. Mrs. Fox prioritized my well being, a virtual stranger, but nevertheless a stranger in need.
With the passing of Mrs. Fox, there is a little less benevolence in the world.
Unless we transmit her recipes of kindness through our own selfless acts so that she lives on - not just in all of our hearts but the hearts of others who never knew her.
May her memory be for a blessing.