reflections – petite essays



Welcome to a new JN feature. Each month, we’ll ask community members to weigh in on a single topic. This month: Kindness.
If you are interested in participating, contact Keri Guten Cohen at and put “essay” in the subject line. Enjoy!

Arnie Goldman

Penny was coming over with her handmade bingo cards for my brother-in-law Joel. He was truly excited and couldn’t wait to play with her. She always lets him win.

Since his second stroke, Joel has struggled with eating and bathing and needed help. My wife heard about Penny, who told us she had gone to Hollywood to be an actress and then came home after cancer took one of her legs. Since then, she has been a caregiver.

My mother-in-law had always taken care of her eldest son who has Down Syndrome and never asked for aid. But she admits Penny is “God sent,” enthusiastically giving and compassionate, making Joel’s life a little better every day.

The Talmud says, “The highest form of wisdom is kindness.” Penny is not Jewish, but she demonstrates the essence of tikkun olam, helping to repair Joel, among others.

I have given Joel presents and taken him to sports events, but Penny has demonstrated that selfless moments of kindness are more meaningful: the
simplest, most precious of gifts.

Arnie of Farmington Hills is president of a distributor of security products in Livonia and dabbles in writing.

 Kim Lifton

I am wearing a necklace with a small, round silver pendant inscribed with broken Hebrew letters from the Shema. When I put my hand on top of it and close my eyes, I can hear familiar voices chanting the Shema. It’s peaceful and helps me feel centered, like a good therapy session with a dose of spirituality.

I gifted the pendant to myself two years ago. It was part of my healing journey following the death of my twin, a bitter divorce and some challenging parenting issues. A friend suggested I spend more time doing nice things for myself.

Before the purchase, I had been buying an annual birthday gift for a friend’s daughter born the day before my sister’s fatal accident. I thought of her as the life who replaced my twin. It all made sense. Until it didn’t.

After a decade of gifts, it became clear this girl hardly knew me; this tradition had become more of an addiction than an act of kindness.

The pendant reminds me to be kind to myself.

Kim is president of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communications and writing services company. She is co-author of a popular ebook, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents. (

Robb Lippitt

While I was in college, Grandma came to die with us. She had lived in California, but her cancer got bad enough that she needed caring for. Like a child, Grandma needed to be fed, changed, helped into bed. And, like a mischievous child, Grandma liked to make trouble. She dropped her fork for me to pick up. She resisted being dressed. She wanted my attention; all I wanted was to see friends.

The weekend Grandma finally went to the hospital I played the Macker basketball tournament; Mom insisted. Immediately after our last game, I raced to the hospital, still wearing sweaty clothes. “She won’t eat or drink,” Mom said. “The end is soon.”

I sat with Grandma, who opened her eyes, looking at me. I held an ice chip to her parched lips. She took it, smiling gratefully. After a moment, she closed her eyes, never waking again. I cried, realizing my tiny gesture’s importance to her.

Grandma gave me many gifts; none more important than understanding even our smallest kindnesses have enormous impact.

Robb benefits daily from the kindnesses of his wife, Debbie, and daughters Molly and Eryn. He is founding partner of Secret Sauce Capital and deeply involved in our Jewish community.


The TV commercial for KIND bars states: “People confuse nice and kind. Nice tells you what you want to hear, but kind is honest.”

We rarely see it on TV news, but kind and honest conversations are possible.

Two weeks ago, I facilitated a Hate 2 Hope workshop to transform the tensions at a biracial church. The two couples — one black, the other white — have been friends for years, yet never spoke about the tension dividing them. White privilege. Their interactions were nice, but not honest.

The discussions started with white privilege. It was not easy. The pairs held very different truths, yet I could feel the caring they have for one another. Every response was spoken with kindness.

I saw firsthand the power in having an honest conversation expressed with kindness. Today, the divides locally and globally are becoming tsunami-like, inciting hate and fear, separating nations, destroying businesses and communities, and oppressing people. Join us in having honest conversations backed by kindness. Join us in moving from Hate 2 Hope.

Brenda is former VP of fashion at Hudson’s and creator of programs that combat hate across faith, race, religion, and between police and community.

 Dovid Nissan Roetter

Many vaguely remember days because of the event or due to the people present. On occasion, however, the two blend together to create a permanent memory.

I will never forget Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. It was the day my 10th-grade principal came to my dormitory in the morning to inform me of the passing of my dear sister, Pesha Leah.

What happened shortly after is one of the few memories that remain crystal clear from that whole week of shivah. Two classmates, Yogi K. and Mendel I., came over to spend the day with me until my parents arrived in Brooklyn.

There will never be such a tasteless pizza ever again, nor will there be a more utterly boring bag of 20 or so video games that they brought with them.

But they did something more than just friendship — they were kind. They did something so personal and extremely awkward, but they did it with a pure heart and without expecting anything in return. That’s more than just “charity.” It’s kindness I’ll never forget.

Dovid of Oak Park is a junior studying journalism at Oakland University. He has a radio show on WXOU on campus called “Bike of Life” that is about kindness.

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