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Take part in acts of kindness


By Alexandra Zaslow



Last February, my dad died in a tragic car accident.

I’ve learned more in the last year than in every year of my life combined.

I am grateful for the 20 years I was able to spend with him. During that time, he and my mother worked hard to instill valuable lessons in my sisters and me. The most important lesson: Be a good person.

Growing up, my family celebrated Shabbat on Friday nights and recited a beautiful prayer. My mother asked us to pay close attention to her favorite line. “May we always be grateful that we have one another and that we are able to express our love through acts of kindness.”

At times, the ability to find the good in people can be difficult. This was something that came naturally for my dad.

He wasn’t just a dad. He was this extraordinary man with a gift for life. He appreciated everything, and I appreciated him for that.

We encounter people everyday we don’t stop to acknowledge. My dad did.

He was leaving dinner with a good friend when they passed a homeless man. She walked right by, but my dad stopped and gave the man $5. He then looked at Goldie and said, “you can’t just walk past a human being.”

We all have the ability to brighten people’s days, so why not take the extra step to do so?

My father was a writer. With hundreds of readers in line during book signings, he still took the time to listen to people’s stories and then personalized each book.

I loved seeing how big of an impact he had on thousands of people’s lives.

It’s been a difficult year for my family and me, but I have found a strength I never knew I had.  We all have it. Sometimes, we don’t know we have it until we are called upon to use it.

The act of kindness I have received from my friends, family, members of the IU community and even strangers has been truly remarkable. I know that my father would be happy to see this.

Through their guidance, I found out it was possible to go on and live a life that my dad would have wanted me to live.

One of the most heartwarming experiences happened recently at the IU Hillel. I had to attend services to observe the yahrzeit, or one-year anniversary, of my father’s death. By Jewish law, 10 people needed to be present for the service. I was surrounded by students who didn’t know me, but came to take part in an act of kindness.

I have received comfort from my dad’s readers — most of whom, I have never met in person.

Unfamiliar faces approach me, and I continue to receive emails from people who used to read my father’s books and columns, sharing stories about how he touched their lives through his writing.

 I hope to one day make that kind of impact on readers.   

These experiences confirm my father’s legacy will live on, even though he
cannot.

I have learned we all have the ability to empower people and change somebody’s day through small gestures.

So smile at passersby and be generous when giving hugs. You never know when your simple act of kindness might have a profound effect on someone’s life and raise their spirits.

­— azaslow@indiana.edu

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