She asked the same questions over and over again.
One of our congregants took her eight-year-old daughter to a nearby senior home to visit the Alzheimer’s and dementia unit. One of our clergy members was leading a Shabbat service and our Sinai Temple kids and the members of the senior home listened to the prayers and swayed to the music.
An elderly woman leaned over to the little girl and asked, “What’s your name?” The little girl answered.
She continued, “How old are you?” The little girl answered.
The elderly woman leaned in, offered a smile that lit up the room, and said, “You are just so beautiful.”
And the little girl beamed in return.
For the next 30 minutes, the elderly woman asked the little girl the same questions… over and over and over again.
“What’s your name?”
“How old are you?”
Always ending with, “You are just so beautiful.”
While it was slightly disconcerting to engage with a woman that repeated herself and immediately forgot the present conversation, the little girl’s heart lifted higher and higher every time the woman offered that smile. Disease, diagnoses, age and life circumstances flew out the window. All that mattered was one soul reaching out to connect with another. Sometimes, a little recognition is all we really need.
Is that not the purpose of each human being? God desires each one of us to look past our differences and see the beauty in God’s humanity.
There is a story in the Talmud about a blind man that comes to visit Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob. The rabbi seated the blind man at the head of the table and gave himself a less dignified seat. The other guests assumed that the newcomer was an important person and so they honored him with presents and gifts. The blind man responded, “Why are you honoring me so much?” The guests responded, “If Rabbi Eliezer sits lower than you at the table, why shouldn’t we honor you?” When the blind man heard this, he bestowed the following blessing on Rabbi Eliezer: “You have a done an act of kindness to one who is seen but cannot see; therefore you will be blessed by Him who sees and is not seen.”
God’s beauty exists all around us and wants to be seen. Wants a little recognition. A smile to another. A squeeze of a hand. A kind word. Noticing those people we often look past or beyond. In some capacity, we all want to be seen.
Our common purpose is to honor God’s creatures, extend kindness, and know that in doing so, God sees us.