the schmooze


*The Yiddish word for benevolence or kindness is "guthartsikayt"
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York
There's a Yiddish expression, "Di klainerhartz nemt arum di groisseh velt"--The heart is small and embraces the whole wide world.

The following story was e-mailed to me, and during this holiday season, is most appropriate.


He almost didn't see the "alt dame" (old lady), stranded on the side of "der veg" (the road), but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help.  So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the "shmeykhl" (smile) on his face, she was "bazorgt" (worried).  No one had stopped to help her the last hour or so.  Was  he going to hurt her?  He didn't look safe; he looked "orem" (poor/needy.)

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold and rain. He knew how she felt.  It was that chill which only fear can put in you.

"Mayn auto iz kalye gevorn.  (My car has broken down).  Tsi kent ir mekh tsufiren biz a garadzh?  (Can you drive me to a garage?) He said, "I'm here to help you, ma'am.  Why don't you wait in "der oyto" where it's warm?  By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an "alt dame," that was bad enough.

Bryan crawled under "der oyto" looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two.  Soon he was able to change the tire.  But he had to get "shmutsik" (dirty) and his hands were hurt.

As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the "fentster" and began to talk with him.

She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only passing through.

Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him Any amount would have been all right with her.  She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped.  Bryan never thought "tsvey mol" (twice) about being paid.  This was not a job to him.  This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty who had given him a hand in the past.

He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.

He told him that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person "di hilf" (the assistance) they needed, and Bryan added, "and think of me."

He waited until she started "der oytomobile" and drove off.  It had been a "kalt" and depressing day, but he felt "gut" as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe and went in to grab a nosh and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip "heym." It was a dingy looking "restoran."  Outside were two "alt" gas pumps.  The whole scene was unfamiliar to her.

The "kelnerin" (waitress) came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn't erase.  The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months  "shvanger" (pregnant), but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude.

The "alt dame" wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a "fremder" (stranger).  Then she remembered Bryan.

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a "hundert" dollar bill.  The waitress quickly went to get the change for her money, but the old lady had slipped right out the door.  She was gone by the time the waitress came back.  The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the "servetke" (napkin.)

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote:  "You don't owe me anything.  I have been there too.  Somebody once helped me out, the way I'm helping you.  If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do.  Do not let this chain of love end with you."

Under the "servetke" were four more $100 bills.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written.  How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the "beybi" due next month, it was going to be hard.

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft "kush" and whispered soft and low, "Everything's going to be all right.  I love you, Bryan Anderson."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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