Inspiring Stories of Heroic Compassion
by Rabbi Michael Schwab
“Each person shall give . . . .” (Exodus 30:12)
Two weeks ago Texas was hit with a major winter storm that brought with it uncharacteristic freezing temperatures. As a result, much of Texas was thrust into an emergency situation: thousands without power or water, plus many families who were initially stranded on roads or isolated in homes. The damage was so widespread that local authorities and services were simply overwhelmed and were not capable of helping all who needed assistance.
However, help arrived anyway, due to the kindness and generosity of private citizens and NGOs that took to heart the obligation of giving of themselves to others. Following the opening command in our Torah portion this week that each person, each soul, needs to give something of themselves to the community, individuals stepped up to rescue stranded citizens, fix broken water pipes to restore water and help save the lives of those who were in distress.
For example, as People Magazine reported, when plumber Andrew Mitchell heard of all that was needed, he and his wife, Kisha Pinnock, packed $2,000 worth of materials and drove nearly two days from their home in New Jersey to Texas, to help in the efforts. For the trip, the two also brought along their 2-year-old son, Blake, and Mitchell’s apprentice and brother-in-law, Isaiah Pinnock. They are still there helping Texans who were told by local plumbers that they would need to wait three weeks for an appointment and it could cost thousands of dollars. Because of this family, dozens of homes now have running water again.
And there is Ryan Silvey, who left his Austin, Texas, home on Feb. 15 in his truck to get a Mountain Dew and a pack of cigarettes, as snow began to blanket his city. But, as USA Today reported, quickly the weather worsened and the routine errand turned into a grueling four days spent hooking straps and chains to hundreds of stranded vehicles, pulling their passengers to safety. As he said, “If it was me and my kids in a car, or if someone was in pain, I’d hope they’d help me.” One woman, who had her dogs in her car, had to be pulled miles to her family’s home, in reverse. Another family was pulled from a ditch around midnight after their car had lost power and the dad had a head wound that was bleeding. After his story was shared by other news outlets, he was contacted by other truck and Jeep owners, offering to help. While pulling cars himself, Sivley fielded calls and text messages from other stuck drivers and delegated the jobs out to the rest of the makeshift team. He and his colleagues helped hundreds of people in danger, simply out of the goodness of their heart.
And there was Enriqueta Maldonado, who USA Today reported cooked hundreds of meals for those who were vulnerable and had no electricity and water, or a way to get food for themselves. “When we first kind of determined that we had the resources to cook food, it was honestly like a no-brainer,” she said. Monica Maldonado, her mother, called on the pastor at Teri Road Baptist Church, who donated its entire pantry full of food. Nonprofit Do Good ATX set up an online portal to sign up for meals, provided the supplies and enlisted the help of volunteer delivery drivers. So Enriqueta and Monica got cooking. Over the next week, they fed hundreds of people helping to stave off hunger for those in need.
Life is unpredictable and disaster often comes unexpectedly. We never know whether we will be the victim or the person in a position to help. However, as Jews and as human beings, one value remains constant: that we all need to find a way to give when there is someone in need. As the real life heroes mentioned above demonstrated, all we need is an open heart, a compassionate soul and a commitment to do what is right in order to make a difference.