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A Stranger’s Gift

September 10, 2014

mike mechanicLast Sunday found me at the bike shop, full of people coming and going with their two-wheelers. While waiting, an elderly man entered wearing red sneakers, cut off khakis, white tee shirt and an old-fashioned baseball cap with no brim, like a beanie. The hat was probably as old as he, the fabric worn, and the words “Little Slugger” stitched on a baseball on the front. He was carrying a bicycle tire. There was an air pump next to me and he bent down to use it.

“Would you like me to pump while you hold it?” I asked.

He looked up, his brown eyes smiling, his beanie somehow not falling off. “Thank you, but I can do it.” He looked back at the wheel, but suddenly back at me. “You know, when I was 12 I fixed a door lock.” He had an accent but I couldn’t place it. “If you know the material, if you know the purpose and if you know the energy of what it is supposed to do, you can fix anything.”

I smiled back and soon my bike was ready. As I walked out, I stopped by the man. “What are those three things again?” He followed me outside.

With the sun beating down on the corner of West 96th Street and Broadway, stories were shared between two strangers. “I was born in Israel, my parents dead by the time I was 11,” he said. “But I could fix things. I worked on that door knob a long time and when I heard that click.” He paused, closing his eyes as if remembering the sweet sound of his early success. “I then knew my purpose. The same principle is true with everything you want to accomplish.”

This 80-year-old had become the number one mechanic in Haifa before going into the army. He came to America in his 20s and had two marriages; the first for citizenship, the second for love. “My wife,” he said, looking in the distance and pausing to allow the wave of sadness to crest and fall, “is alive, but a vegetable. Very sad getting old and what do doctors know?” He waved his finger in the air. “Not much.”

The mechanic, whose name was Mike, rested his hand on my arm, pinching the skin a bit, something my paternal grandmother used to do when she spoke to me, causing now my eyes to tear. Then he nodded to my bike. “That is the best medicine,” Mike said. “And if you ever need it fixed, call me.” And as Mike gave me his phone number, I realized he’d already given me so much more.

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16 Comments
  1. shelly1185@hotmail.com permalink

    Felice- Great blog! Great experience. Hope you send him the blog. Little did he know that you fixed a door lock as well at the age of 8! Mom

  2. Deborah Golden permalink

    My eyes are smarting. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Joe F permalink

    You did it again with this blog. You touched my inner self. Thank you for your charm.

  4. what a lovely story . . .you only connect to other human beings when you take the time to notice them. I hope you do call him.

  5. What a blessing. Everyone has a story. Thank you for sharing Mike’s.

  6. Theresa permalink

    The sweetest and most heartfelt story ever! Truly warmed my heart! What an encounter Chief! 🙂

  7. I agree with the comment above. You meeting Mike (and Mike meeting you) was a real blessing. A lovely, lovely encounter.

  8. Debra Topilow permalink

    Wow! What a great story! You are lucky to have met him.

    Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:47:05 +0000 To: debra@topilow.com

  9. Marilyn Solomon permalink

    What a touching story! Hope you keep in touch with him! 😘

  10. Mark permalink

    That was as useful as a week long trip on spirituality. This moment in time you shared with us is what makes me proud of humanity. I want to meet mike. Does he make good hummus?

  11. RJC permalink

    I recall clearly the time –when you were 8 or 9– you walked around the house which we had recently moved into, and holding a large screwdriver, asking what needed to be fixed (tightening loose screws = “fix’) and proposed to charge 10 cents for each repair. Best $1,50 I ever spent.

  12. What a great story!!

  13. Auntie M permalink

    Love this blog & love that you took the time to listen, smart lady!

  14. Dana Arschin permalink

    so freakin cute! great post

  15. I got chills from your blog this week. Encounters like these are so precious!

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