You’re riding on a subway when someone beside you is offering you a delicious looking cake. Would you take it? What if a frum lady was offering you the piece of cake, would you trust her and take a piece, or hesitate? Well, Bettina Banayan was giving away free homemade cake on the subway. The New York City culinary student whipped out a two-layer cake, gloves, and icing while riding the subway earlier this month. She then proceeded to frost and decorate the cake, completely undaunted by onlookers, and pass it out to fellow hungry passengers. Now clearly, my next question is “Is it kosher?”, but it got me thinking:
If the person handing out the cake were visibly keeping kosher standards, would I eat it? And what does this say about how communities build trust?
We build communities on the basis of trust. It’s a sad tail that in general society Bettina’s generosity has to viewed with so much suspicion. The world is full of wackos, sure, but not as many as you think. Most people are in fact good people. The news fills its with reports of violence and perversion. We often forget that news agencies do this because it keeps people watching, not because it represents reality.
We could blame it on big city life. Cities overflow with people, we can’t know them all. And, in truth, it only takes one bad apple to ruin the bunch. Who want’s to become a statistic? But another way to look at is that cities pack in the good people too; far more good than bad. Millions of nice people that want to reach out a helping hand, but are afraid of having that hand bitten.
Communities turn the entire idea on it’s head. Communities, by definition, are small pockets of humanity hidden in the midst of a city. Places where we know each other, or share each others values. It’s a place where we can take that cupcake from a “stranger” because we know it’s “kosher”. In communities, we can accept generosity without fear. Not only from people we personally know, but from people we know share our values.
It is entirely reasonable to react to a strangers generosity with scepticism. Fear is not reasonable. It is the product of a media and culture that thrives on anxiety and stress. Bettina is a hero! We can’t always accept generosity, but just like Bettina, there should be no cause for fear in giving it!
In our community we call this “Kiddush Hashem”. It’s not just a good idea, it’s an obligation to us. Think of how easy it is to give a (packaged) candy or cookie to a stressed out mother and her children? A pair of cheap head phones to a stranger on the subway who can’t hear his phone over the noisy city. Even just a helping hand with too heavy luggage. Every time we do this we help fix the falseness of our world, helping to reveal the truth: The world is filled with beautiful souls.