I shook my head in disbelief. “Chani (the pretty blonde salesgirl had told me her name about an hour into our search), we’ve been sitting here—” I looked up at the office clock—“why, it’s almost three hours now.” It seemed that finding the right insurance plan to cover my children’s special medical needs, my husband’s needs, and my own was almost impossible.
I was really frustrated. In another few minutes the kids would have to be picked up from school, I had some groceries to buy, and I hadn’t thought yet about supper.
“There must be some kind of plan for us,” I said.
“I’ll keep looking,” Chani answered, her blue eyes full of sympathy.
But would she, I wondered as I rushed out of the office to pick up the kids.
That evening, as the spaghetti was boiling in the pot and kids were elbow to elbow around the kitchen table doing their homework, the phone rang. It was Chani from the insurance agency.
“I just wanted to let you know that I found the perfect insurance to cover your family’s needs. I’ll tell you about it, and I can send you the details by mail.”
“Really?” I exclaimed. “There’s no problem?”
“No problem,” she said. I sat myself down and felt the tension drain out of me. This plan was a definite go, I realized as she gave me the gist of it. It would work for all of us. And the thousand dollars it would save us could go to fixing our boiler instead of being sucked into a black hole. What a relief.
I turned my attention back to Chani. “You must have researched long and hard till you came up with this solution,” I said gratefully.
She murmured something along the lines of it’s her job, after all.
“And you even called me at home, after hours.” I was struck with a sudden thought: maybe I should do something to express how grateful I felt. I go to an Ahavas Yisrael group that meets on my block. Last week, hadn’t the very issue of gratitude come up in our group? Here was my chance to put what I’d learned into practice. “Chani,” I said, “can I have your supervisor’s name and address?”
“Really, Mrs. Schwartz, it was no big deal,” she said, but when I insisted she gave me the name and address. As soon as I got off the phone I wrote a heartfelt thank-you note. I described Chani’s persistence in finding me the best insurance for our needs, even calling me after hours. I described her empathy, and how she never made me feel that I was a bother or a drag on her time. I sent the note out right away.
A few months later I was shopping for back-to-school supplies when I heard, “Mrs. Schwartz, is that you?”
I turned. A young lady walked down the aisle toward me.
“Yes, I’m Mrs. Schwartz.” I looked at her. Her blonde hair was clipped to the side in one of those stylish ribbon clips. “Sorry, have we met before?”
“I’m the one who helped you out a few months ago with your insurance.” She paused. “Remember? Finding the right match for all of your family’s needs?”
I stared at her. Then it hit me — “Of course! Chani, right? The one who I sent the thank-you…did your boss ever get that note?”
Chani nodded. “You don’t know what your thank-you note did for my family, Mrs. Schwartz.” She shifted her shopping bag from one hand to the other. “A little while before you came into the office we lost my father. He got sick and just weeks later he was gone.” Chani looked away a moment; then, a bit haltingly, she went on. “From the shock and loss, Mom went into a deep depression. We were all devastated by what was basically a double tragedy. My sisters and I took Mom to therapists, and my brother took her to a rav, but nobody could help. Mom had just given up.
“But you know, Mrs. Schwartz “when my boss got your note, he made a copy and sent it on to my mother. Mom read all those nice things you said about me, and then she read them again. And since then she seems to be slowly coming back to herself. I don’t know. Maybe you made her realize that there were still good things left in her life, family, nachas, things like that. She tucked your card into her purse and she carries it with her wherever she goes, because she started to go out again after that and do the things she has to do. What can I say, Mrs. Schwartz?”
Speechless, I put out my arms to hold Chani in a tight embrace. As she turned to leave she offered a final gift of words: “Each day we’re grateful to you for expressing your gratitude.”