I feel like I grow and learn each time that I volunteer at the Pina Chama, the warm corner for soldiers in Gush Etzion. I get so much more than I give. Every time.
Yesterday was the birthday of a beautiful boy who we knew for only a brief time, soon after we moved to Israel. He was Yehuda’s first friend in Israel. He was adorable and loving and so sweet.
Last night, while I was volunteering, I took a quiet moment to write a Facebook post about Chanan, about how I was thinking about him all day and dedicating my volunteering to his memory.
I looked up as I was writing to see a soldier requesting coffee.
But it wasn’t any soldier, it was Chanan’s father.
Now, it’s not strange for me to run into him in our community. We are friendly; we see each other frequently in the neighborhood. But I have never, in all of the years that I’ve worked at the Pina Chama, seen him there. And he has never, until now, done his reserve army service in our area.
When I looked up from my post and saw him, I was momentarily speechless.
I teased him that he really didn’t still have to be doing reserve duties – that we are now old enough to leave these tasks to the next generation. And he said, “I’ll continue doing it for as long as they’ll have me.”
And there we were, on Chanan’s birthday, protecting the people of Israel and feeding those protecting us.
As we talked, I couldn’t help but feel that some coincidences just feel too coincidental.
The night was filled with soldiers – an entire large group of reserve solders was there having a meeting and enjoying pizza and ice cream. These are adults ranging in age from 25-45 and beyond; people with jobs and families who pick up when they are called to serve for a week or two, or more. I am always humbled and amazed when I watch these reserve soldiers come through the Pina Chama.
One of them started chatting with me and we got interrupted a number of times by his phone. He explained that his daughter was currently wedding dress shopping in New York. Her wedding would be in June, and he was excited to share in the dress shopping from thousands of miles away. And he vacillated between his army walkie-talkie and his wedding-dress-shopping cell phone as we sipped tea together and waited in anticipation to see if she would make a dress choice.
Finally, his daughter called to say she had found the perfect dress and he smiled while giving her the credit card (I’m not sure I’d be smiling at that part) and kept saying “This is so wonderful! May we only share in joyous times!”
We’ve got a lot going on in our little country right now. When don’t we, really?
But last night was about memory, joy and safety as people from all walks of life and all ages joined together in the Pina while protecting and serving the country.