In 1983, I was considering converting to Judaism. My first-ever Saturday morning service, at the Fabrangen congregation in Washington, was daunting: long, foreign in language (mostly Hebrew) and in style (with periodic standing, variable bending and spontaneous murmuring), and interactive (an in-the-round gathering).

Then, halfway into the service, I looked up to see a dark-haired man with a warm but intent face walking toward me. He was beckoning me with a few crooks of his finger. Was I being summoned for some strange ritual? Was he mistakenly thinking I might actually know how to do something?

I was nervous bordering on downright scared, but I rose and followed him into the hallway, where the answer lay. He had asked me to do perhaps the one thing, the only thing, that a non-Jew could do to be helpful in the service: help carry a table back into the sanctuary. I didn't know why at the time, but I soon saw that the Torah scroll would be placed on top of it.

After two decades of friendship, through weddings, births, and bar and bat mitzvahs, I still don't feel I can ever repay John's act of kindness. But whenever I need a reminder that much goodness can come from simple gestures, I think of what he did.

Rick LaRue, Silver Spring

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