Shelter

Sitting at home listening to the rain quite literally pounding against my window-pane, like tiny fists desperately begging for entrance. Angry sounds of rain against glass, of the wind whistling through the swaying trees, the silence and darkness of cars parked in driveways, not a night to be out and about.

But some people are.

This time of year is not only one for repentance and forgiveness, but also for being grateful. Talking to God has never been something I struggle with, but recently it feels almost overwhelming to imagine asking God to let me keep the people I’ve learned to build my life around. Horrible things happen every day, people I know lose seemingly everything in a split second. I cant let myself think about the possibility of that happening, or I wouldn’t be able to let those I love out of the door every morning. But what I can do, is be grateful that they are mine, and tell God that, as honestly and meaningfully as possible.

But tonight, during the ten days of penitence, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness in equal measure, but not over any person in my life or missed from it. Simply having a roof over my head, something we all take for granted, isn’t an obvious truth for everyone. I’ve always had what you could call a soft spot for the homeless, giving where I can, signing up to Shelter and other charities similar to it. But still, no matter how involved I try and become, I cant fathom the idea of someone not having anywhere to lie their head at night.

Maybe it’s about being part of a community. Even if you discount family and friends, I cant imagine a situation where there would be absolutely no one I could turn to to ask to stay for a few days, a week or two. And if there was? All I would need is courage to go and ask the local Rabbi for some hospitality from somewhere in the community.

So to me, who could list off the top of my head, fifty people who would open up their spare rooms for the night before I was turned onto the streets, and thank God, could afford to be in a bed-sit, a hotel, or a studio for quite a while even if there was no-one to call, I shudder to imagine the bodies wrapped in soggy newspapers lying rough tonight.

The small taster we are about to receive, no doubt sitting in the rain in our ‘temporary dwellings’ this Succot, should be enough to remind us all how much we have. As we go into Yom Kippur, for me at least it helps to go back to the very basics, and remember how lucky we are to be able to complain about the cold and the rain from the inside looking out.

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The usual suspects

I don’t know how many of you have had the misfortune to take your kids to hospital appointments. My guess would be most. Whether its routine check ups, short term problems, or something more serious, we all find ourselves sitting in doctors waiting rooms from time to time.

With R’s nystagmus, we have settled into a twice yearly bundle of appointments which last about one month. Tiring and stress inducing, yes. But also lots of time for people watching.

I give you, The usual suspects of the paediatric clinic.

1. The attention seeking child.
He decides you are the most likely people in the waiting room to appreciate his genius humour, and therefore spends the waiting time trying out jokes, funny faces, stories and limitless attention grabbing poses. Although annoying, and certainly not funny, he alone generally doesnt take up too much of your time before he is removed, unless he is disasterously paired with #2.

2. The overly doting mother.
An exaggerated version of most mothers, this mum doesnt only think her kid is adorable, (which we all are guilty of) but she is certain that the rest of the world must think it also. Generally brought on by whatever reason they are also at the child clinic, I cant blame her for her doting attention on her child, but I can blame her for inflicting it on the rest of us. When paired with the kid above, you have no hope of the child being removed from your immediate vicinity, as why wouldnt we want to listen to a 2 hour stand up performance from her little angel? Why, we should be thanking her for the entertainment. Isn’t he just precious? Isn’t he just hysterical? Cue tight forced smiles until your name has been called.

3. The germy kid.
Unlike in a regular doctors office, where you always take your life in your own hands to see a GP, in a specialist clinic, you shouldnt generally need to come armed with hand gel and face masks. However, (and I really do feel for the parents, as one day no doubt it will be my turn) we all wait up to a year for some of these appointments, and no gosh darn cough or cold is going to make us miss it. So I see you bundle the child in question up, take them to the appointment anyway, and try to ignore the other mothers evil stares while your spluttering wheezing child fingers all the books and toys and coughs on any unsuspecting kid in their vicinity. I presume you know they should be in bed, so I dont judge you, only pity you. Because on behalf of all the other mothers in that waiting room, we all hate you.

4. The uncomfortable dad.
I can see it written all over your face. You shouldn’t be here. You should be in your important job attending an important meeting about important stuff. Due to some crazy twist of the natural order, your wife actually had something more important than you to do today, (is that even possible?) and so you have taken over chaperone duty. You dont know where you should be going, you don’t know where to hand this form into, your kid is coaching you on the names of the doctors, and you have a list of questions in your wife’s handwriting that you keep fingering nervously in your pocket. The sooner this whole thing is over, the better.

5. The Jew that is making us all look bad.
Do they keep a chassidish man with no social skills in the closet at every hospital to take out when an ordinary modern orthodox couple come along to make us feel like we want to die? He barely speaks a language that isnt yiddish, (I would imagine the secretary doesnt really understand your ‘nu’ing.) he brings with about 7 books to learn, all of which are giant, (ever heard of a pocket mishnayot?) he entirely ignores the child he has come with, having to be shaken to attention by the kid when her name is called, and talks loudly and unintelligibly on his phone for the duration of his visit. (then why bring the books?) And the very worst thing? He keeps looking at us. Stop it, it’s going to make people think we associate with you. Oh no wait, it’s so obvious you’re glaring at us, people will probably think we’re mortal enemies. Much better.

Feel free to add yours to the list, I’m off to another of November’s people watching sessions. I suppose I’m fairly earning the tag of ‘The eavesdropping starer’.