Thanks to the state's ongoing budget crisis, my daughter got an extra day off for the holiday weekend on Friday, while all the LAUSD schools were on furlough.
In another year, we would have used this extra time to go somewhere -- but our family has an ongoing budget crisis of our own, so the only thing I had scheduled was a visit to the doctor. The pediatrician we've known since the day Megan was born is not on our current insurance plan, and I can no longer afford out of network medical care. As she is now 14 years old, I piggy-backed her annual checkup onto my own appointment with my general practitioner.
We arrived on time and were dismayed to discover that it was standing room only in the tiny waiting room. This did not bode well for a speedy visit. I tried not to listen in on the cell phone conversations of the other patients, but after 20 minutes, I'm afraid I got to know all of them better than I wanted to.
As we left the doctor's office, we ran into one of those other patients. She walked slowly with the aid of a cane and the support of a younger man whom I assumed was her son. She was obviously in a lot of pain.
"Could you give us a ride home?" she asked. "My husband isn't able to get here and I've got to go back for my medication."
For a moment, I flashed on my husband's disapproval. "You let two total strangers in your car," I imagined him scolding me. "How did you know they wouldn't try to carjack you? How did you know they didn't have a gun? And you had Megan with you? How could you endanger HER like that?"
I put his voice out of my head. They did not appear dangerous, and we did have the same doctor in common. I told her to wait while I got our car.
"We're doing our good deed for the day," Megan said, oblivious to the mental lashing her dad was giving me in my head.
"Bless you for doing this," the woman said. She looked a little like Jan Hooks -- not as I remember her from Saturday Night Live, but as she appeared on her recent guest spots on 30 Rock. She out a painful little moan as she slowly lowered herself into my back seat.
"Yes, thank you," said her son.
Their house wasn't much out of our way. During the 10-minute drive, we made small talk. It quickly became apparent that my passengers were a lot more religious than I. The conversation went something like this:
Jan: "How old is your daughter?"
Me (wary of giving out too much information): "She's 14."
Jan: "Praise Jesus. I can tell she's a nice girl."
"Yes, she is. I'm really lucky."
Jan: "Praise the Lord."
And so on.
Now, I do have friends who are devout Christians - but they know I'm Jewish, so I'm not really used to such persistent blessings -- and I'm ashamed to say I forced myself to keep looking ahead, because I knew that if I caught Megan's eye, I would start to laugh.
As we turned left onto Jan's street, she pointed to a building on the corner.
"That's our church," she said.
"Oh, that's really convenient," I replied -- which was all I could think of to say.
"Yes, it is. Praise Jesus."
Jan and her son got out of the car and thanked us again. As soon as they were out of earshot, Megan and I looked at each other and we did both laugh.
"I think that's the first time anyone has praised the Lord so much in this car," I said. At least, in English instead of Hebrew.
Megan was thinking the same thing.
As we drove away, I felt we'd performed a Mitzvah. We'd done a kindness for someone else for a change. And that felt really good.