A helping hand — and ear

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (stljewishlight.com).   Joel Iskiwitch and John DeMott, authors of the  “What can you do?”  sidebar, are congregants at TE.


The day before a marathon can be quite intoxicating in the most simple of ways. I had traveled to Columbus, Ohio for my 10th marathon. The goals of the day before the run are easy. Relax, rest one’s feet, mentally prepare and drink lots of fluid.

I had a couple of water bottles in my possession but alas, I could not open the top. My hands slipped; they felt weak. How was I going to hydrate?

I went next door to the room of my 82-year-old friend who recently stopped running full marathons but was there for the half. He easily opened my water and then asked a favor of me. Could I listen to the message on the hotel telephone? He wears a hearing aid and was struggling to completely understand the message. 

Perfect! We were two halves of a whole. He needed my ears and I needed the strength of his hands. It was a win-win situation.  This moment gave me an opportunity to pause and consider how fortunate I was to be able to help someone who also needed my help. Often the seniors of our society are treated as children. We speak loudly or slowly or as if they are not in the room, using the third person. We scoff when they cannot accomplish what seem like simple tasks. Opening a bottle is easy for most, but I needed help.

Wouldn’t society be much richer if we looked out for each other and cast out preconceived prejudices about ages and needs. I needed my friend and he needed me. We were two halves of a whole.