on my flight over to israel, i was really excited. my company changed
its flight policy 5 days before i left, and i was able to upgrade
my ticket to business classs.
you may say: "so what?" but i needed to sleep, and i'm too big to
be comfortable in the back of the plane. so i was looking forward
to sleeping a good part of the 12 hour flight. in business class,
this is easy to do: nobody talks to you, because they're either
too important, too busy, or too tired.
i got on the plane, and wasn't that thrilled when the person next
to me started talking. it was 10:30 PM, and it was bedtime. but
he stuck out his hand, and said his name was simon.
i smiled, introduced myself, then put my seat back and my blindfold
on. i was determined to get some sleep. simon started humming, and
after about two minutes, i felt a tap on my shoulder. when a peeked
out from under my blindfold, simon gave me a big smile, and told
me that it was going to be a long flight, and we both could use
in spite of my early misgivings, i must admit that i had a really
nice time listening to and watching simon. because he was not able
to sleep, we ended up talking for 9 of the 12 hours.
simon is 79 years old, lives in los angeles, and was heading to
israel to visit some friends for a month or so. his friends didn't
know he was coming, but he said that every couple of years, he flys
over and surprises them when he knocks on their door.
simon is a survivor of the holocaust. he was in the warsaw getto
until it fell, and ended up in several different concentration camps
during wwii, including auschwitz and bergen-belzen. when the war
ended and he was liberated, he weighed 75 pounds and was single
so simon started over. he "borrowed" a mercedes from a local ss
leader, got a job as a delivery person, and earned enough to feed
his neighborhood. he married again in 1947, and came to the usa
with his parents and brother in 1948. he ended up in la, and started
a nursing home. now simon has two sons and eight grandchildren.
the older son is slowly taking over the nursing home (simon says
he still has to watch him), and his younger son works for ibm in
so what did simon have to say? i learned three important lessons
1) simon says "enjoy the people in your life". i watched simon smile
and wink at the flight attendants, start singing a lullaby to the
lady across the aisle when she was going to sleep, and laugh at
my jokes, even when he didn't understand them. i heard him tell
stories about his friends, and i saw many pictures of his family.
during the entire trip, he never said anything bad about anybody.
2) simon says "never lend; only give". he also says "if you lend
to a friend, you lose a friend". i think this speaks for itself.
3) simon says "believe in God". after the holocaust, simon says
that he could not believe, because he couldn't understand how God
could forsake His chosen people. but something had obviously happened
since then, because simon's faith in God was strong. i asked simon
what turned him around, and his answer was simple: "i got old, and
i remembered Him. if you're luckier than i was, you won't forget
we arrived in tel aviv. i carried on all of my luggage, and i didn't
have to wait for my bags. so i said goodbye to simon, and he gave
me a big hug. as i walked away through customs, i looked back, and
saw simon smiling and talking to the woman next to him.
i couldn't wipe the grin off my face for a couple of hours. and
i caught up on my sleep with no problems that night.
simon says "be happy".