Stories of Kindness from Around the World

A Powerful Tool

--by servicespace , posted Jan 19, 2013
One of my next-door neighbors is a sweet and frail-looking grandmotherly 92-year-old Polish lady who lives with three cats. She is a Holocaust survivor (and with due respect does not talk about that traumatic time), and has a daughter and grand-daughter who visit her every week.  She oftentimes brings us cherry tomatoes, comes over for chai, loves mangoes, and is in general a very sweet person.

A few months ago, my friend and I drove down to LA to attend a dear friend's wedding, and came back home to the Bay Area the next evening.  As I was unpacking my clothes in my room, I heard a persistent, frantic knock on the door.  It was 10:30pm, and I wasn't sure who it could be.  I went downstairs and looked through the peephole, and saw that it was our sweet next-door neighbor.

I quickly opened the door, and she seemed really distressed and kept repeating, "Please help me, I need your help.  The fire alarm won't go off.  It's frightening me.  Please help me."  I immediately told her that everything would be okay, and accompanied her to her house to see what was going on with the fire alarm.  

She mentioned that the alarm had been going on and off inconsistently for the past two hours (with no noticeable reason/fire/smoke), and that her attempts to call her son-in-law to come and fix it were fruitless.  So I took a chair from her dining room table, climbed it, looked at the fire alarm, and she somehow produced and handed over a screwdriver.  It was at that time that I saw her numerical tattoo that ran across her exposed right wrist -- a feeling of dread overcame me, but I soon composed myself to get the fire alarm off.

After twisting the fire alarm off, I blew into it (sometimes dust accumulation or low battery causes it to make strange noises).  She seemed relieved but was literally shaking out of fear.  I asked her if she was okay, and she said she was afraid, so I gave her a hug.  I felt her shaking in my embrace, and held her tight for a few minutes until she stopped shaking and sighed a breath of relief. 

It was a very intense experience, and something that I felt very privileged and humbled to witness -- the vulnerability of someone who was indeed very scared. Although I couldn't even imagine what it must have been like to be in a concentration camp (and what I feel must have been a trigger with the fire alarm), the experience allowed me to use a simple hug as a good and powerful way to hold someone going through a difficult period.  We then sat down and talked for ten minutes, until I felt that she was okay, and safe to sleep.  She was so generous with her gratitude for being with her, but I thank her for reminding me that hugs are indeed powerful tools!
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Readers Comments

americandream wrote: Thank you for reminding us to treasure the hard-won peaceful life we can enjoy today
Peacehunter wrote: I have tears for so many reasons. As a 39yr old i havent much knowledge of the actual devastating lingering effects of such an atrocity. This made it tangible for me in human terms. Thank you for the learning moment. And as well for being there for that soul. Thank you sooo much xo
mom1k wrote: Beautiful story, beautiful friendship.
STRAWBERRY wrote: So sweet that you helped that woman!
Eva wrote: Thank you for reminding me of the power of a hug
cf wrote: Oh yes. Good thing you just hugged her, not tried to talk her out of it. Much healthier for the body. Thanks!
kidzfirst wrote: I've always loved the power of a hug! My 11-year old daughter often comes up to me and says, "mom, you look like you need a hug! " i guess she's learned the power of a hug also. Thanks for sharing.
rigabrain wrote: This is lovely story! Thank you!
sethi wrote: Thank you for who you were. A hug is the shortest distance beings to connect.
pinksmoochies wrote: For some reason the holocaust was always one of my triggers. I can't imagine the pain and fear and horror these poor people dealt with. So bless you for bringing her some comfort. It probably meant more than you will ever know.

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