Mitzvahs Everywhere?

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This week holds a particular excitement to it. Sixteen years ago today, my husband and I packed up our life in Boston, Massachusetts and relocated to Portland, Oregon. Every year, we think about the anniversary of this cross country move and celebrate our decision. It’s hard to believe, it’s already been so long. The time has flown by and we are definitely more rooted to Oregon than either or our own hometowns now. Our daughter, now 13, is a full fledged Oregonian and our son age 10 has told us he wants to attend the University of Oregon. We love the food, culture and the ease with which we can live in Portland. For a young couple who had no ties to Portland prior to a visit we made just two months before packing up our lives and moving across the county, we sure feel like we have webbed feet now.

Next week, I will be in New York City to share my upcoming book at the Jewish Book Network. I was born in NYC and lived there for a brief time in my childhood. Though, I lived most of my childhood years in a suburb of Boston and later in rural Vermont, we traveled frequently to NYC during those years to visit my paternal grandmother. The city was so exciting for a country girl. I remember so many kinds of food and the hustle and bustle of the city life that pulsated through everything. I also have fond memories of visiting dozens of friends who lived there during my college years. It’s amazing to me, that I haven’t been in New York City since we moved out west in 1995.

I have been wondering as the time has approached for this trip, whether living in Portland all these years has changed me in some way. The northwest is a wonderful place to live and people are notoriously friendly and kind. I have begun to ponder whether New Yorkers would engage in acts of kindness with complete strangers as I know Portlanders do.  I assume many New Yorkers do, but when I think about New York I certainly don’t conjure up images of friendly people engaged with strangers, its more like angry taxi drivers yelling at each other and honking. So, I intend to use this brief trip as a bit of an unscientific experiment. Could a smiling face or a genuine compliment in NYC create the smile in return as it does in Portland. What about holding the door open for someone, or buying the person behind you a cup of coffee. Would that genuine connection foster the empathy and understanding for other human being as I see it does in Portland.  Of course, my trip is brief and obviously I will be looking for acts of kindness so my hunch is that what we look for we will certainly find.

When I mentioned this pondering to a friend last week who still lives in Boston she reassured me that she gets that same kind of response when she performs acts of loving kindness in Boston as I get in Portland. It will be my intention then to consciously engage in as many mitzvahs as possible on my trip and note the reaction from the recipients. I will also note any kindnesses I receive. I know I won’t be in NYC very long but I am looking forward to noting if the hustle bustle of the city effects people and their ability engage in genuine expressions of giving and gratitude with another human being.

What do you think I will discover in NYC about people engaged in acts of loving kindness?

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