Coping with Tragedy:
Fighting Terror with Kindness
Kindness has been my personal response to terror. My wife, Shoshana,
was murdered by a suicide bomber. She was one of over 100 victims that were
killed or injured on August 9, 2001 at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem.
Sometimes I wonder whether telling my story can really help others.
Since, the way I am coping with tragedy is so different than the norm, would
anyone else understand it?
Many of the rabbis that came to visit me told me a story about a carpet.
"Sometimes you only see the knots on the back," they said; "Only later do
you see the beautiful design on the front." I thanked them for coming and
explained that I see the beautiful design now. I see the "big picture."
I have always been interested in the "big picture"
– in how to make the
world better. Since I was a kid, I always liked to tackle these big problems
by assembling a group of experts to solve them. As a teenager I designed a
system to tap hydroelectric power from the wastewater of apartment
buildings. I contacted a local engineering school and assembled a team of
academicians to prepare the plan for the US Department of Energy.
After my wife’s violent murder, I began a project to teach people how to
be kinder. The project has just started to take off. At the moment, we have
more than 10,000 subscribers on six continents to our "Daily Dose of
Kindness" e-mail. Everyone who signs up for this e-mail list is also
automatically signed up as an advisor. As I said before, I like having many
advisors. Right now, I have over 10,000 "Kindness advisors".
Last week, one of my Kindness advisors sent me an e-mail link to an
article in the New York Times about how medical researches have found that
acts of kindness stimulate the brain in the same place that physical
So now medical researchers have shown that doing kindness causes
From this you can see one way that I cope with tragedy
– I receive
tremendous pleasure by promoting kindness.
My favourite author on kindness is Zelig Pliskin. In his book Kindness,
he presents eighty-five techniques to find new opportunities to do kindness
by improving yourself and improving the world around you. In one chapter he
explains how you can feel the thrill of an international sports victory
every day if you visualize 100,000 people applauding for you and cheering
you on when you do an act of kindness. Studies have shown that our hormonal
system has actual biochemical responses even though the victory is totally a
figment of our imagination.
Shortly after my wife’s death, I prayed with great intensity to G-d to
help me to make the world better. From the feedback I am getting from my
kindness projects, it is clear that my prayers are being answered and that I
am helping to make the world a little kinder
– one person at a
time. This feeling of Divine assistance combined with the biochemical
responses to my imagined victory has given me tremendous emotional strength.
Source: Partners In Kindness, Shmuel Greenbaum