Friday, July 11, 2014

Kindness Of Strangers": A Different Holiday

 When we were in the US, we always dreamt about going back to Israel so that our daughters would grow up there. When they were in second and first grade respectively it finally happened. My husband got a position in Ben Gurion University in the southern city of Beer Sheva, and I got a job teaching English in a public high school.

 We arrived to Beer Sheva late in August few days prior to the start of the school year. Our daughters spoke Hebrew, but they needed extra help with their reading and writing.

I started teaching at the high school, but as I have never taught before, I was not at all ready for what  happened in class. Instead of teaching my students the wonders of the English language, like I had planned, the noise in the class forced me to constantly discipline them. I had no experience and had no idea on how to make the students sit quietly and  listen to me, and as a result I could not engage them. I felt uprepared and  helpless.

 At the end of an especially exhausting day, some ten days after the beginning of the year, I realized  that I was not up to the job. Moreover, I felt  that I would not have the needed energy to help my own girls with their  Hebrew if I kept on struggling with the students to teach them  English.  When my husband came home that afternoon I told him that I decided to quit, he understood.

 I went down to the public phone to call my supervisor;  it was simply not done to quit after the beginning of the year, and I expected  that she would be furious with me. But instead she listened and said that she understood, she told me that she would come to visit me the following day.

 When she came over she was most sympathetic and  shared with me the  difficulties she encountered after she immigrated to Israel some fifteen years  earlier. She arrived here as a young woman and started teaching right away, it was hard but she got used to it.

Like her, we were young when we moved to tohe US and faced some challenges in our new country, but we too managed. However, moving back home we were sure that since we knew the place it would be easy and familiar to adapt to Israel again. My failure as a teacher came as a shock.

As it was several days before the High Holidays, my new friend invited our family to her home for dinner. Our families got along well and it was a beginning of a lifelong friendship. Although in quitting my job at the  high school, I obviously created a problem, she recommended me for another job. About  two months later when we wanted to buy a house, she and her husband had known, even before we did,  that we needed  someone to cosign for the mortgage loan. At a great financial risk if we defaulted on the loan, they offered their help and cosigned our loan.

 Although this is not a Christmas story, the kindness of my former boss is surely in the spirit of the season. We were strangers, but she and her husband were never suspicious toward us, quite the contrary: they were generous and made us welcome.  This experience has changed not only our reality at the time, but it also affected the way we viewed the world: it inspired us to become more accepting and in a way made us better people.


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