The Wise Older Woman
by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
Recently, I attended a beautiful wedding. A young Jewish couple came
together in joy and the room was filled with happiness. Outside of the
banquet room I noticed a group of older women sitting near the door
collecting charity. They all looked very pure and plain at the same time,
young seniors and older seniors, nothing fancy about them. Their hips were
full. They were wearing comfortable walking shoes and somewhat frumpy
looking clothing. They wore either wigs or kerchiefs. They had a
sweetness that if I were a child again, I would have felt delighted to
have come home to milk and cookies with any of them. I ended up giving a
dollar to just about each woman, in fact two dollars to the woman who
actually changed a twenty for me so I could give out my money.
Later on in the evening, I went back out where they were, when nothing
much was happening in the social hall. I was looking to have a bit of
conversation with one of the ladies. I think I felt a need to be
connected to their warmth. I certainly couldn't ask for milk and cookies,
but I could talk!
The woman I started to talk to was well up in years. She had beautiful,
lively eyes - eyes that could have gone with a twenty year old or even an
infant, they were so bright and full of life. Her skin was beautiful. Her
body and her face showed age, but no where near the age that she
apparently is. She told me that she came to this country 65 years ago with
three children and then went on to have seven more. That means that she is
about 90. She didn't look a day past 75!
She told me that she comes out to all the weddings to collect charity.
She's very proud of the fact that last year she collected $30,000 for
poor, sick people in Israel and brides who needed money for their wedding
expenses. She told me that she doesn't keep a dime for herself and that
her daughter who lives in Israel helps to disburse the money.
By her intensity, I could see that she took her job extremely seriously
and with utter devotion. She told me a few other things about herself. Her
husband is no longer alive. She receives Social Security. Of her ten
children, nine are living; one daughter was lost at 41 - I don't know to
what illness. She is very proud that a number of her children are Rabbis,
teachers and school principals in the Jewish educational world. That's
about the extent of the details.
She opened a window to me. I never really knew nor had I ever really
talked to any of these women that are always at weddings of this type,
asking for money. I guess, like we often do with people we don't know, I
basically dismissed them almost as non-entities even though I always gave
at least a few dollars.
Talking to this woman of course made her so alive and real to me as she
obviously was for 90 years before I knew her! I was impressed with her
generosity of spirit, her sincerity and her utter devotion to her cause.
She was passionately committed to her cause. She refreshed me with her
energy and focus.
She is a woman, of course, who has known so many people and seen so many
things! Having nine living children, she probably has 80 grandchildren.
Her world is rich with people, children and grandchildren and probably
great grandchildren to love. A private life, her name even if I shared it
with you, would not ring a bell. Her charitable work is not a registered
charity. She doesn't go on TV with commercial pitches. She just comes to
one wedding after another, sits out in the hallways, puts a little sign
asking for money for the poor, ill and brides, in a dish and collects.
Then she ships the money to Israel and starts all over again. There's no
middle management. There are no commissions to pay. There are no cuts.
It's just dollar bills transforming lives.
It's simple. It's without layers. It certainly is the antithesis, the
absolute opposite of the concept of managed care where one hand doesn't
wash the other - where one hand watches the other and takes a cut until
there is less and less left.
Yes, as a positive psychologist and a woman, talking to her was for me,
really the best part of my week! She uplifted me and reminded me small is
I hope you enjoyed my little story. Remember, the Seventh Gateway to
ENCHANTMENT is Positive Action-Good Deeds! I hope this wonderful wise
woman helps all of us have the courage for lots of good deeds this holiday
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein , originator of THE ENCHANTED SELF®, a method of bringing delight and meaning into everyday living, invites you to view her new line of ENCHANTED WOMAN products, downloadable e-books, and free gifts at http://www.enchantedself.com
from the March 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine