What is chesed? Chesed is an act of kindness that can change the life of someone else for the better. I remember a profound act of chesed from my brother.
When I was in college and was quite depressed, my brother took time off to come from Boston and visit me in Providence. After talking with me for a few hours, he gave me a book. Both his visit and the book helped me.
He knew that a good story could transport me to another reality, give me a break from what was depressing me, and connect me more deeply with other people’s thoughts and feelings. Seeing how someone else deals with their troubles, even just in a story, inspires me to work through my own problems.
The other thing that lifts me up and makes me feel good is doing chesed, helping others. Combining my love of books and wanting to help others led me to volunteer as a literacy tutor at Winship School in Brighton. Helping first and second graders learn to love reading has brought me as much joy as it has brought them.
I worked with one young boy who almost never spoke in class and was shy with other students. After reading with me for a couple of months, he gained confidence in his English and in his opinions. I saw him joking with classmates, and his teacher recounted how he spoke up in class now.
Seeing my students do better in class and gain confidence interacting with others is such a reward for my time with them. I know that improving their reading helps them learn better and opens up that world of wonder I find in books.
My acts of chesed give back as much to me as I give to my students. I have enjoyed tutoring so much that I am now starting my 22nd year! Many of my temple members are also tutors, some of them returning for their fifth, 10th, and 14th years.
So, my prayer is: Yehi Ratzon mi’lifanecha—May it be Your will—that each of us finds more ways to share chesed, to give and to receive loving assistance and kindness so that we may all help to repair the world.
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