The Sweetest Donation

Tis’ the season to be generous. If your inbox looks anything like mine it has been flooded with donation requests. #GivingTuesday requests alone exceeded 100 of emails. I don’t complain since I am one of the senders of those emails.

Face it, organizations all need to survive and non-profits are not different. We all recognise that December is giving month, for whatever reason society has made that a “thing” be it year end tax deductions or just a culture phenomenon and try to leverage that sentiment.

So, when we launched our 30 hour “match campaign” this past Wednesday, we joined hundreds of thousands or organizations that endeavor to tell the world why our cause is important and worthy of support. I am happy to report that our efforts were rewarded and we successfully concluded our campaign raising the entire amount we had hoped for. 

Of the 211 donations that made up the campaign, all were appreciated, but one donation stood out above them all. It was by far the sweetest donation.

My Friend *Phillip is a fellow that I simply know as Phil the Starbucks guy. In fact, that is how his name and number are saved on my cell phone. I don’t know where he lives (at least I didn’t until a few days ago) I don’t know what makes him tick but I do know that he is a lover of ppl.

I know he doesn’t work, and I know he has some emotional challenges but other than talking a few octaves higher than is comfortable, he is mostly harmless and just a nice guy.

Somewhere in the past few years he managed to get a hold of my cell phone number and I often get phone calls or text messages from him and I see the words  “PHIL THE STARBUCKS GUY” pop up on my screen. When I can, I take his calls and talk for a few minutes, other times a text has to suffice, but I realized that in many ways I became one of his few friends that he could talk to. 

Then Covid hit. Everything shut down, even Starbucks. For us dark coffee lovers, this was just an added pain of this crazy pandemic. For folks like Phil, this was the insufferable final straw. His one haven for social interaction was now taken from him. Even when the stores reopened, first drive-through then even the main store, it was only opened as a walk-up-to-the-counter purchase and that’s it. Only a certain amount of people were allowed into the store at a single time and schmoozing and hanging out was strictly forbidden.

This bothered Phil to no end and he made his feelings known. He isn’t on social media so I fielded many of his calls of frustration. First the messages were left on the office line, then to my cell. I answered as many of them as I could promising that things would reopen very soon. Alas, they didn’t open very soon. He ranted and raved about the injustice of it all, and how it wasn’t fair that he couldn’t see me or anyone for that matter.

My heart broke for him but I couldn’t fix his problem but I was able to listen, so I did. When I told him that we’d be having in person services he was delighted and told me that he might even join. Knowing that he doesn’t have a computer to make reservations as was required by our Covid Taskforce, I told him that he’d be welcomed to join us for the holidays without a reservation, just show up and we will seat you, safely separated by his closest neighbor by at least 6 feet. 

I didn’t think he’d show up, since he told me he hadn’t been to Shul in decades, and honestly I was a bit concerned that he would show up since I didn’t want him making much of a ruckus. Well, he did show up and he was on his best behavior. He sat there the entire time and just took it all in. His soul did more praying than his mouth, but I am certain that Hashem delighted in his prayers more than many others. His purity and simplicity shined through his tattered jeans and stained shirt.

After the holiday, he disappeared and after a few weeks hiatus his calls started up again. He always looked forward to us being able to have coffee again and I always agreed. I smiled inside and realized that this pandemic was having a harder toll on some more than others and was grateful that I could at least lend him an ear. He professed his gratitude to me for being there and I patiently accepted his praise and tried to conclude the conversation quickly without hurting his feelings.

With this background you will understand that I found it quite a surprise, when I received an envelope in the mail for our fundraiser from a guy named Phil. I didn’t recognize the last name and the address was not yet in our database but the $18 dollar check was written by the loving but shaky hands of a man named Phil. I still wouldn’t have connected the dots until I I opened the second envelope inside the first envelope which had a Starbucks gift card for five dollars.

It was then that I put the two pieces together and realized who the donor was. Now it was my turn to initiate a phone conversation with him. I found Phil’s number and called to thank him for giving what must have been a very large sum of money for him to the Chabad. Even more, to thank him for the personal touch of the coffee card.

When he didn’t answer I thanked him via a text message.

His text reply: “Tov. See. You. During. Chanukah. To. All Chabad. Touches”.

I am not 100% sure what he meant, but it was consistent with the Phil that I’ve come to know.

No, it was not the largest donation, but it sure was the sweetest.

*A Pseudonym