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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dinner with a Co-Worker - Tales of a Time Gone

Last night a few of my co-workers took me out to dinner at one of the kosher restaurants in town. They were excited to have the opportunity to actually be able to eat with me for a change. The woman who arranged the evening is a 67-year-old women with a heart of gold; she truly is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. It is interesting, because reflecting back on my past positions, I realized that I often become close to co-workers who are older - I think I really appreciate the lessons that can be learned and the perspective that comes from someone with so much life experience. We had a nice evening with little talk of work. My co-workers enjoyed the kosher food, we had good company and interesting conversation. As the evening came to a close, my co-worker began telling stories about her experiences with both me and other Jewish friends throughout her life. The first story she told about me was a time when I was pretty new at my job. She had realized that I didn't eat the bakery items she brought in to work so I explained to her that I keep kosher and couldn't eat non-kosher food. She went out to the grocery store and bought a kosher cake mix and announced to me that she was going to make me a kosher cake. I had to gently explain to her that even though the cake mix was kosher, and all the ingredients she planned to put into the cake would be kosher, if she made it in her kitchen, I still would not be able to eat it. I think she was hurt a bit until I also told her that I couldn't eat anything anyone made unless it was in my kitchen. We remained friends, however, and after that she took care of me by bringing me the recipes for the baked goods she brought into work, so if I wanted to try them, I could make them myself. The other story she told I had never heard from her before, and I have heard a lot of her stories! This woman has spent her entire life in Baltimore, without a lot of affluence. She told me about a friend she had when she was in elementary/middle school This friend of hers was from Europe, had been through the Holocaust, in a DP camp, and had lost her father in the ordeal. They quickly became friends and used to hang out after school. During the summers, my co-worker, whose family never had a lot of money, could only afford to join her friends at the swimming pool once a week. She tried to include her new friend, who informed my co-worker that she wasn't allowed at the pool. Because she was Jewish. Being Jewish didn't make a bit of difference to my co-worker - they found a different pool to go swimming in. Wherever her friend could go was good enough for her. Through the years of friendship, my co-worker ate Passover meals at her friend's house and shared many moments with her. She has learned a lot about Judaism, and still asks a lot of questions. She told me she has always appreciated the fact that I allowed her to ask as many questions as she wanted, and that I didn't get annoyed. I am happy that I was able to make a good impression on my co-worker and have built such a nice relationship with her. From not being able to eat her food to her taking me out to a kosher restaurant, we have bridged a religious and age gap between the two of us - and we have found that it doesn't mean we can't be friends. I believe in giving and learning from any one I come across, and am richer from the experience of having so many diverse individuals in my life. Humanity should bring us all together.

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