A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tzedakeh Is Its Own Reward

Today I walked downtown to interview Atty. Philip Hendel for my next newspaper column. Atty. Hendel is an übercool guy who could probably well afford to retire at this point in his life. In fact, he's still very active in his practice, in various legal associations, and in the community. He's got a beautiful office on State St. in one of those nice old buildings that's solid marble everywhere inside, with heavy doors and lots of polished brass trim. Very impressive and lawyerly.

Atty. Hendel is the man who, about fifteen years ago, rescued the YMCA from near financial ruin, and is responsible in large measure for its excellent fiscal health to this day. His firm, Hendel and Collins, P.C., specializes in insolvency cases, and is well-known for its ability to get organizations, particularly non-profits, back on track without resorting to bankruptcy. He used his considerable knowledge, experience, and clout to galvanize the entire YMCA community and the community at large. Lots of changes were made in the way the Y does business, and lots of donations poured in. In the process, Atty. Hendel forged strong friendships with members of the board and administration of the Y, and became committed to the YMCA mission himself.

Most successful people of Atty. Hendel's caliber are generous, even philanthropic. Some just write a big check to the United Way every year and get it over with. Others like to target their benificence somewhat. Atty. and Mrs. Hendel particularly like to enrich the lives of little children, giving them experiences which will make a lasting impression on their young minds.

Although the Hendels often act anonymously, the preschoolers at the YMCA's Magic Years Daycare have figured out who's responsible for all those trips to the dinosaur exhibit at the museum or to see the Muppets on Ice. Last month, a delegation of four and five-year-olds paid a surprise visit to the venerable offices, singing songs and bearing gifts. One of the gifts they brought was a large poster they had made themselves, edged with jigsaw puzzle pieces, depicting several smiling youngsters thanking him for his many years of generosity.

Philip Hendel was overcome by this display of loyalty and affection. He had the poster framed and prominently displayed on his wall. And I know just how he feels. All kids are cute, but those kids over at Magic Years are somehow extra, extra cute. Tzedakeh is its own reward, of course. But having all that adorableness directed straight at you for something you did has got to be sweet.

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