Thoughtful Thursday – Honoring Aida Cruz, not Bill Gates

Thinking about what matters is an Emotional Fitness Exercise.   This post is about giving from the heart, not from the pocket book.

Who gives to charity chart. The poor do more.

A Torah discussion of giving from Metzora(Leviticus 14-15) “You Think I’m Bad?!…”

If he is poor and his means are not sufficient… (Lev. 14:21)

The offerings of a wealthy and poor man are not equal – they are only required to bring offerings according to their means. The Mishnah(1) states that a wealthy metzora (a person struck with tzoraas) who brings a poor man’s offering has not fulfilled his obligation with such an offering.

The same concept applies to a Jew’s spirituality. A person must put forth the utmost effort when it comes to serving God, and he must utilize fully the potential that God has granted him. We may often validate our bad behavior by comparing ourselves to friends who are doing similarly. However, this is a grave error. Your friend may fall into the category of a spiritually “poor man” – perhaps he does not possess the same capabilities and knowledge that you do. If you act like him you may well see your own obligation to reach greater heights go unfulfilled. The greater our potential, the greater the expectation.(2)

The verse states “in heaven above and on the earth below.” (3) In pursuit of spirituality (heaven), one must look up to people that are “above” him, people that are greater than he is, and strive to be like them. However, in pursuit of physical pleasures (earth), one must look at people that are “beneath” him. One should look at those who have less than him and therefore he will be content with what he has.(4)

Emotional fitness Thoughts

A few of those reading this and who worked with me at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York know who Aida Cruz is.  She is retired now and we have lost touch much to my regret.  She lives on in my heart, however, as the person I would like to be.

Why? She used the struggles of her life to enrich others.  Aida Cruz was born in Puerto Rico but spent most of life in the South Bronx, long before it became fairly safe to live their.  She married and had two sons, both suffered from major emotional disabilities; one eventually committed suicide at the behest of the voices that commanded much of his life.

Aida worked most of her life as a beautician. One study showed that for the near poor, beauticians were low-cost therapists. When she came to work in my VNSNY programs as a Parent Advocate, she helped  more people than most of the staff with fancy degrees.

We would walk the mean streets of Mott Haven together (Read Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace or watch the movie Bonfire of the Vanities for a glimpse of where Aida lived).  As we walked, few people passed us without greeting Aida. Often, she would dip into her purse and hand out a bit of cash to the neediest beggars.

Once I protested she was giving money that would probably go for wine or drugs, and she remarked quietly, “He could be my son.”

I blushed all the way back to our office and never again refused a down and out beggar.

Emotional fitness tip

Practice deliberate kindness and from your heart, not your judgements about who deserves what.  I admire Bill Gates and others of his kind who share their wealth; but I admire even more  those like Aida Cruz who give when it lowers their standard of living.


If we forget kindness matters most, or judge before we give, we are weakened and the world’s progress toward peace slows.

Thank you all for all you do to care and share with others. Doing a little matters a lot. Doing more matters more.


This post relates somewhat to this Daily Prompt: Lookin’ Out My Back Door:  Look out your back window or door — describe what you see.  Actually what I see is an April Snow storm. But instead of looking out my back door, I looked back in time to someone who helped me grow stronger.


Practice Deliberate Kindness ass an Emotional Fitness Exercise.

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