We all have the power to make a difference in the world, but it doesn’t always feel like it.
I would like to take a moment to brag a little bit about my husband, Shaul Janes.
Shaul and I moved to Cleveland Heights just over two years ago from Jerusalem. It has not been an easy move for him. I dragged him back to the States after he’d finally achieved a dream of his, to make aliyah and live in Israel.
I had to come back to the States to work and if we were going to build a life together, he would have to come back with me.
But as difficult as that was, that perhaps wasn’t the hardest thing. Shaul has many skills and talents, from being a trained chef to painting and restoration, and more. Beyond that, Shaul is a people person. He likes to talk with people, help people and generally be of service to others. However, it was difficult to find a job here in Cleveland that could utilize his skills and also be something he could make a living from. Finally he got a break at Motorcars Honda.
Being a car salesman has got to be one of the toughest jobs out there. People come in with the expectation that there will be a huge markup on the car, but that isn’t the case anymore, not with everything being on the Internet; the prices are all pretty much the same. And yet people feel the need to haggle.
We don’t haggle over the price of our dinner, or our groceries but for some reason, with cars we do. And it isn’t the dealership that suffers; it’s the little guy, the salesman. Shaul frequently will put in many hours for a customer only to make a little bit on the sale.
When we arrived, Shaul immediately went to Montefiore to volunteer in hospice. This was something he had for done many years and enjoyed doing. Again, giving back to others is truly his gift. He was assigned a family in our neighborhood in Cleveland Heights that had a dying mother at home. He has gone regularly for a couple of hours every week to give the daughter a few hours’ break. Hospice is something that is generally seen as short term. This has gone on for 16 months.
And then it happened: The two worlds came together, and Shaul could do what he does best, make a difference.
Chuck Gile, owner of Motorcars Honda, told his employees that he would like to be a Secret Santa to someone in the community. Did anyone know someone who was in need? Shaul seized the opportunity to help the family that he had been working with. Having a dying mother at home had been a strain on the family both physically and financially.
Here is a snippet of the letter that Shaul wrote:
“The bed-bound mother suffers from dementia and has spoken no more than a few words since I began working with her. The daughter (her mother’s primary caregiver), who is in her mid to late 60’s, requires a walker, wheelchair, and a scooter to get around. Last week she was being fitted for leg braces! The daughter’s husband has been in physical rehab followed up with vocational assistance, but is still unable to work. To make matters worse, the boiler [for the heater] in their home is out of order and they now rely on space heaters to heat individual rooms. I can’t imagine what their electric bill will be! Additionally, the roof recently developed a leak, which adds to their daily misery. Also, they drive a twenty-year-old car that has been falling apart, and they are not sure how much longer it will last. Of course they know that I work at Motorcars Honda and have asked me about the cost of an oil change – I told them between $25-30. She then told me that they would have to save up for it and just hope the car can make to the dealership.
I can go on and on about their increasing plight, but I think you get the picture. I plan on re-gifting the Honey Baked ham that you are so kind to give me to them which will make a difference, but your generous Secret Santa could really make a much bigger impact on these people who are in desperate need.”
And Chuck came through! Chuck read the letter and saw that this family was truly in need of a helping hand. Chuck approached Shaul and together they were off.
A roofer was on his way to repair the roof. The boiler would be fixed as well. Shaul made sure that the repairmen showed up and the work got done. How about a Christmas tree? Perhaps Shaul was not the best person for that job; Chuck’s wife would handle that!
And then Chuck decided that this wasn’t enough. A car was a necessity. He found good car for the family and delivered it to their doorstep, again with every step of the process being overseen by Shaul to make sure that it was all handled properly.
The news spread to the other co-workers and they too got into the giving, raising a cash donation on top of everything else that Chuck matched and turned into a larger-than-expected gift card for Giant Eagle.
Shaul wrote in a follow up email:
“I delivered the car last night and the daughter was overwhelmed; she is truly grateful. Your generosity lifted a dark cloud that was hovering over her home and filled her heart with joy and hope for the future. While visiting today, she had the brightest smile I have ever seen. Your Secret Santa is a success!”
Will this make a difference in this family’s life? You betcha! Will it solve all of their problems? No.
So Shaul will continue to go over there every week and sit with a woman who simply is hanging on to life, and give support to those who support her. His is an under-acknowledged job – I wanted to take a moment to recognize the differences he has made and continues to make to those around him.