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By: Pnina S. Souid

It started out to be an ordinary day for the Mitzvah Man. He was driving along one of his regular routes when he noticed something, or rather someone, during a short stop at a red light.

He saw a homeless man at a bus stop. This man was barefoot – no shoes and no socks.

The first thoughts that entered the Mitzvah Man’s mind were, “How can anyone walk around like that?” Without a moment’s delay, he pulled over, got out of the car and handed the homeless man his own shoes and socks. He really thought that this was the end of the story.

But as it happened, a passerby took a photo of this act of kindness, and posted it on a public internet site. A woman in Baltimore saw the photo and immediately contacted the Mitzvah Man to inform him that this homeless man he helped is her son.  She had not seen him for three weeks.

“Is he ok?” she asked.

The Mitzvah Man was not sure whether to trust this woman, but he replied and explained that he really did not know how the man was doing. He had given him his shoes and socks, but had no other details to offer.

She went on to tell him that there are about 40 homeless Jewish men in that area, and a rabbi opens his shul late at night, after the congregants leave, so that they can sleep there.

The Mitzvah Man decided to check this out. He went to the shul and saw, in the middle of the winter, homeless men sleeping without blankets on the floor and on park benches that the rabbi was able to bring inside.

The Mitzvah Man contacted the rabbi to learn more, and the rabbi told him that this started several years ago with just a few homeless Jewish men.

“I let them sleep here and gave them food,” he explained. “They come in late at night and leave early in the morning so as not to disturb the congregants.”

The sight of these men made a deep impression on the Mitzvah Man, and he asked the rabbi simply, “What else do you need?”

“We need cots, pillows, blankets, winter coats, assorted clothing, and footwear,” the rabbi answered.

The list was sent out to the devoted volunteers of the Mitzvah Man Organization, and within 48 hours they were able to deliver – new cots, new coats, new sweaters, new undergarments, new socks, new shoes, and 18 new shavers so that these men could clean themselves up and feel refreshed.

When the men saw everything, and that it was all new, they all broke down in tears, overwhelmed by this act of kindness. They were not accustomed to being given anything new, and they were all very grateful.

The Mitzvah Man asked the rabbi for more information about the homeless man whom he had seen barefoot at the bus stop, whose mother had contacted him and thus initiated the involvement of the Mitzvah Man Organization.

“This man is called ‘a drifter’,” the rabbi said. “We don’t see him for weeks at a time. When it gets very cold, he comes back to sleep in the shul.”

All this began when the Mitzvah Man saw a fellow human being who seemed to have no home and was walking around barefoot in cold weather. He never imagined that this simple act of kindness would be made public and then lead him and his volunteers to help so many others like this homeless man.

This is a lesson for all of us. You never know what one act of kindness can do.