Friday, July 13, 2012

Could we be inspired by Sean O'Connor?

Our thoughts during the run-up to Tisha b'Av are all about shalom and chesed, ways we can help each other and avoid sinat chinam (baseless hatred) and build community. To a certain extent, the drumbeat is so consistent that we run the risk of thinking we already know all there is to know about kindness and doing for others.

That's why I appreciate the story of Scott Widak, a 47-year old man with Down's Syndrome and terminal liver disease, whose nephew, Sean O'Connor, posted a Reddit message asking people to send his uncle mail because "one of his favorite things to do is open mail."

As CBS tells it, he has now received more than 1,000 letters and packages, postcards and gifts.

To a certain extent, it is easier to help someone we've never met. There's no long-term obligation. There is no existing framework to dampen our creativity. There is no baggage or resentment from external factors.

Still: If so many people could do this for someone they never met, what creative ways could we devise to help those we know?


  1. As the Rabbi said, it's easier to do chesed for someone we never met, maybe something of that sort can be created. Helping anonymously a random sick person in the community, keeping in touch with a unknown soldier in the IDF. If the problem is Sinat Chinam, I don't think G-d will be picky on how we try to change it.

  2. Was I the only one who read that as Sinade O'Connor and thought you were encouraging us to tear up pictures of the Pope in live TV (and maybe shave our heads).