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Random Acts of Kindness: Your Almost-End-of-Week Feel-Good Story

Need your faith in the goodness of strangers reaffirmed? Read on

Liel Leibovitz
August 30, 2018

It’s Thursday. It’s been a long week. We’ve survived three months’ worth of breaking news cycles in just a few days. We’re tired, and we need some sweet story that reaffirms our basic belief, the one we refuse to abandon, that there are still decent humans out there and that sometimes, life works out just fine. Ready for your feel-good story? Sit back and read on.

It begins with a man named Chanan Rubin, until recently a member of Jerusalem’s city council. Earlier this month, he visited France, but when he returned to Israel, he made a terrible discovery: When returning his rental car at the airport in Lyon, he left a few of his bags in the back seat. He didn’t care much for most of what was in them, but one item stood out: his tefillin. Rubin called the car-rental company, but received nothing but a “mais non.” Frustrated, he took to the last refuge of the desperate man: Facebook, sharing his tale of woe and asking if there was anybody out there who might help.

Almost immediately, a complete stranger named Yonatan McLean responded. “Don’t worry,” he wrote to Chanan, according to reports in the Israeli press, “I’ll make sure you get them back.”

McLean, too, tried calling the rental company, and, meeting with the same stiff-neckedness, decided to get in his car and drive to the Lyon airport himself. That the airport was 45 minutes away, or that it was, by then, nearly midnight, didn’t deter McLean at all.

When he arrived at the car-rental office, however, he was met with a bureaucratic wall of refusal. If the bags did not belong to McLean, the car-rental company employees insisted, he could not reclaim them on someone else’s behalf. A few minutes of idle argument ensued, with no results. Then, McLean had an idea. He told the employees that the bags contained some strange artifact that they wouldn’t recognize, an ancient and mysterious sacred Jewish object. Intrigued by the description, the employees allowed McLean to approach Rubin’s bag. Soon, McLean removed the tefillin and unspooled them. Impressed, the employees let him take the bag.Which still left the challenge of returning the bag to Rubin in Jerusalem. Again, Facebook was consulted, and, again, human kindness shone through: More than 50 people, French and Israeli alike, offered to come and collect the bag. Finally, a man about to fly to Israel agreed to drive a while out of his way, pick up the bag from McLean outside Lyon, and schlep it in person.

Social media used for good, car-rental companies being reasonable, strangers going out of their way to help: Think of those next time you feel the world getting darker.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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