Delaying a Flight Led to a Kiddush Hashem

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, shliach to Beijing, China, wrote how a 3-hour ordeal to change a flight due to the coronavirus led to an unexpected Kiddush Hashem.

By Rabbi Shimon Freundlich for

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, is the shliach to Bejing and he is the last rabbi and shliach left in China after the outbreak of the coronavirus. His family left to New York soon after the initial closure of Hubei Province, and he remains at the Chabad House, tending to the local community.

He wrote of an experience he had this week when he had to spend 3 hours in an airline’s office in an attempt to change a flight.

My ordeal in the Air China office proved to be worth it:

Yesterday, March 4th 2020 I left my home and went to the Air China office in Beijing (not too far from my house), in order to change the return date of our family’s tickets back home from the US.

Due to the daily updates of the coronavirus, companies are compelled to change cancelation, refund and or rescheduling policies, way too often.

I ended up sitting in the Air China office for close on 3 hours, wearing my mask and using hand sanitizer frequently. By the time everything was sorted out, the lady behind the desk was practically in tears. For the past 3 hours, she was running back and forth from her desk to the phone to speak with her manger, then back and forth to the printer and so on. All the while apologizing to me for the long wait (like I had anywhere else to be, as frustrating as it was).

I assured her it was fine and that she was very patient and helpful.

I must tell you, that after I finally left the office I felt really sorry for her. She was just trying to do her job to the best of her ability – at one point she even told me that she is so confused by the ever-changing policies.

Be that as it may, this afternoon (the once a day trip we are allowed), I took 50 frontline hospital-grade surgical masks, a box of 100 surgical gloves and 5 small pocket size hand sanitizer and went to the Air China office to give it to her, in appreciation for her hard work from the day before. But when I arrived, I was told by the gentleman behind the desk that their staff only work every other day (due to the current short number of flights operating).

I explained to him why I had come, what I had brought for her and asked him to please leave it at her desk for the next day.

When I had finished, the only other person in the office turned around to me and said in a thick Scottish accent “that’s the nicest thing I’ve ever witnessed someone do.” She then continued “are you a Rabbi?” (I was thinking: ‘Really? What gave that away?!’). I responded, “Yes, my name is Shimon Freundlich, I’m the Rabbi of the Jewish community of Beijing.”

I said “I see from your passport you are British. Where exactly in Engalnd are you from?”

“Glasgow,” she said.

“Oh wow, my father was born in Glasgow but I’m from London” I responded.

She smiled and said “I always heard that the Jewish people are a very kind nation, but I’ve never had the opportunity to interact with one. You have inspired me to do something selfless, to do acts of kindness like you just did”

We concluded the conversation with her telling me that she works in the immigration department at the British embassy in Beijing and if there’s anything I need in the future I should call her. She gave me her number, I said goodbye and left back home.

This encounter got me thinking. I thought that I went to cheer someone up. Hashem had different plans. He wanted me to inspire another human being to do a selfless act of kindness, causing a chain reaction of goodness and kindness, making this world a brighter and better place.

To support Rabbi Freundlich’s shlichus and the other shluchim in China during these trying times, click here.

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