Small Miracles

I'm currently re-reading the book "Small Miracles" by Yitta Halberstam & Judith Leventhal -- it's a collection of stories similar to what you might read in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," but all of these stories explore the coincidences of life and whether or not they might actually be divine intervention. And while it has a slightly spiritual tone to it, it's not centered on one religion or another -- rather some stories have Jewish slants, others Christian and most secular. It's a fantastic read, especially for someone like me who is currently at odds with the idea of religion, and something I'd recommend to anyone needing some inspiration.

On the note of inspiration, there was one particular story that really touched me this evening and I wanted to share it with you. This excerpt is from pages 81-83 of the book:

"In the 1930s, Rabbi Samuel Shapira, the distinguished chief rabbi of the Polish village of Prochnik, was in the habit of taking long, invigorating walks into the countryside. The rabbi, who was known for his warm, loving and compassionate ways, always made a point of greeting everyone whose path he crossed -- Jew and non-Jew alike -- and, adhering to a Talmudic dictum, always tried to greet them first.

One of the people he regularly greeted on his daily walks was a peasant by the name of Herr Mueller, whose farm lay on the outskirts of the town. Every morning, Rabbi Shapira would pass the farmer as he diligently worked in his fields. The rabbi would nod his head and expansively boom in a hearty voice, 'Good morning, Herr Mueller!'

When the rabbi had first embarked on his morning constitutional and had begun greeting Herr Mueller, the farmer had turned away in stony silence. Relations between Jews and gentiles in this village were not particularly good, and friendships were rare. But Rabbi Shapira was not deterred or discouraged. Day after day, he would greet the silent Herr Mueller with a hearty hello, until, finally convinced of the rabbi's sincerity, the farmer began returning the greeting with a tip of his hat and a hint of a smile.

This routine went on for many years. Every morning Rabbi Shapira would call out, 'Good Morning, Herr Mueller!' And every morning Herr Mueller would tip his hat and yell back, 'Good Morning, Herr Rabiner!' This scenario stopped when the Nazis came.

Rabbi Shapira and his family, together with all the other Jewish residents of the village, were shipped to a concentration camp. Rabbi Shapira was transferred from one concentration camp to the next until he reached his final destination point: Auschwitz.

As he disembarked from the train, he was ordered to join the line where selection was taking place. Standing in the back of the line, he saw from a distance the camp commandant's baton swing left, swing right. He knew that left signified certain death, but right bought time and possible survival.

His heart palpitating, he drew closer to the commandant as the line surged forward. Soon it would be his turn. What would be the decree? Left or right?

He was one person away from the man in charge of the selection, the man whose arbitrary decision could send him into the flames. What kind of man was this commandant, a man who could so easily send thousands of people a day to their deaths?

Despite his own fear, he looked curiously, almost boldly into the face of the commandant as his turn was called. At that moment, the man turned to glance at him, and their eyes locked.

Rabbi Shapira approached the commandant and said quietly, 'Good morning, Herr Mueller!' Herr Mueller's eyes, cold and unfathomable, twitched for a fraction of a second. 'Good morning, Herr Rabiner!' he answered, also very quietly.

And then he swung his baton forward. "Recht!" he shouted with a barely perceptible nod. "Right!"!

Who would have thought a simple "Hello" could save a life? Yet sometimes the smallest of actions (or at least actions that we perceive to be small) can result in the greatest -- and gravest -- of consequences. The rabbi sowed the seeds of his redemption for years by engaging in polite pleasantries with a person whom others might have deemed an inconsequential peasant. Could he ever have envisioned that one day this man would quite literally hold his fate in his hands?"

When I read this, I couldn't help but be touched by the message and the extraordinary miracle of the story. And although I'm distilling it's meaning quite a bit, I feel like this story has spoken to me. I think a lot about HBS and how nervous I am about the social aspect. I so badly want to make a great group of friends and meet people that I fit with, but my poor college experience always holds me back and reminds me of how difficult things can be. Then I read stories like this and think about my experience at Admit Weekend: I said "Hello!" with a smile to any eyes that met mine and I struck up a conversation with a different person at every event. It was just a small time that I spent with each person, but perhaps that small act of kindness will come back in greater ways in the fall when I'm looking for others to project that friendliness with me!

What are your thoughts?


I just realized in talking to a co-worker that I have exactly six weeks left of work. That's six weeks left of work and then two weeks till I move. Wow, this summer is flying by! The reality of all of this is so totally starting to sink in...

Orientation Schedule!

It's hard to believe that I'm less than two months away from moving to Boston and starting my HBS adventure. With each passing day it becomes more and more real that my life is about to change in a big way!

A prime example: A few days ago the Orientation schedule was posted and I was expecting to find a boring list of classes, registration and perhaps some cheesy team building activities. Instead I found an overwhelmingly exciting list of cruises around Boston Harbor, Casino Nights, movies on the lawn and more! What is this, summer camp? Now of course I know that the boring things are there too, but wow, what a difference from my UF experience. There (with 52,000 students, mind you), we were all numbers left to fend for ourselves. Here (albeit with a much more manageable 900 students), we're encouraged to make friends right from the start, and in small groups nonetheless, so you can get past the annoying pleasentries phase and actually make conversation. Check out some of the activities for the first two weeks:

  • HBS Residence Hall Reception: The HBS Department of Operations hosts a reception for all students living in the HBS residence halls.
  • Buses to Local Stores (is it sad that a shopping trip to Target makes me so excited?): The Student Association has organized bus trips to shuttle students from HBS to local stores (Target, Best Buy and the Arsenal Mall). Take advantage of this great service and get all of your apartment and back-to-school shopping done!
  • Small Group Dinners at Various Restaurants in Harvard Square: Do you want to get past the "where are you from and where did you work" stage? If so, come to a small group dinner and get to know some of your classmates. The Student Association will email all dinner attendees their assigned restaurant and group.
  • Student Association Welcome Reception outside on Spangler Lawn: The Student Association invites you to a reception with the Class of 2010.
  • Dean's Welcome to the Class of 2010: Gather with the entire Class of 2010 for the first time.
  • Learning Team Activities: Immediately following the Dean's Welcome, you will meet your Learning Team. The activities will run all day and all of the activities will be held outdoors.
  • Learning Teams Dinner: Following the day of team building activities, your Learning Team will enjoy a dinner together on campus. Your EC learning Team mentor will join you.
  • Baker Library Tour: Come see how Baker Library can contribute to your success in the MBA Program as Library staff introduce you to the resources the library has to offer.
  • The Leadership Challenges of Global Competition: In this session, four HBS senior faculty members with extensive international experience will briefly present their views of the critical leadership challenges created by global competition.
  • Thank Goodness It's Friday! (TGIF): TGIF is a Friday tradition at HBS. Unwind after your first week of classes at HBS and relive those nasty cold-calls over a cold beer.
  • Club Night: It's time to show your classmates the real story behind how you got into HBS - and it wasn't your 780 GMAT score. Admission is free for students all night.
  • Boat Cruise on Boston Harbor: Enjoy an evening cruising around Boston Harbor. Dance to the DJ's beats on the deck and enjoy drinks and snacks from the cash bar.
  • Movie on the Lawn: Bring your new friends, find a blanket to sit on, and join us for a big-screen, on the lawn - movie title coming soon.
  • Casino Night: Put on your best duds, and place your bets! Who knows, you could win enough to pay your RC tuition - that is, if Harvard University will take play money. Who cares? A fitting closing event for a wonderful Orientation 2008. Dress code is semi-formal (jacket and tie for men, cocktail dress or equivalent for women).
  • The Dean's Office sponsors the annual Fall Community Party. All are welcome for an afternoon of food and games.
How I'm supposed to squeeze classes, eating and sleeping in with all of this fun I have no clue! Guess I better invest in a REALLY good planner!!