This lady was Dottie Weinberg, my Aunt Dottie, who was loved by so many and who had a wide circle of friends. Although it has been over three years since her passing, it seems to many of us as if she is still here, and today’s story comes to you from my heart.
“Hello darling, come in,” her voice would call-out as I arrived. But that greeting was not unique to me. Among the many people who came to see her, “darling” might change to each person’s first name but the warmth and caring was unmistakable.
“Are you hungry,” she’d ask. “What would you like to eat? Can I get you something to drink?” For Dottie wanted each of her visitors to feel welcome and comfortable in her home. And to her they were guests, whether they were a friend of 30-years, or someone she’d met a week ago.
As her guest, she’d give you a big hug and walk you to a comfortable chair. Then she’d offer one of the most important things any of us can to become more popular, and yet it is so seldom done. “Tell me what is new with you,” she’d say, setting aside everything else to give you her undivided attention.
Why does giving someone undivided attention matter so much, in a multi-task society? Mary Kay, who built a cosmetics empire said in looking at what made her business so successful, “Every single person you meet has a sign around their neck – ‘make me feel important’ “
How many people take the time to make others feel important? Very few do. Most people are too busy with their own concerns. But Dottie would make her guests feel important by asking them about themselves and then caring enough to really listen to them.
If you do nothing else from today’s story but consistently use this valuable lesson, it could have a profound affect on your life.
And not only would Dottie listen but she did something else that was significant.
She wasn’t judgmental. Instead, she’d be empathetic and would share in one’s happiness or in one’s sorrow. And if it was sorrow, she’d say, “Oh I’m so sorry you are having that problem,” and offer possible solutions to it. Not condemn that person for having it but treat it as something they and she together might be able to solve.
Solving problems was something she did well because despite her warmth and positive outlook, she had a vast amount of experience solving her own.
Growing up in Brooklyn [NY], as a young woman during the 1930’s Great Depression, Dottie was often the sole means of support for her parents, her five siblings and for others down on their luck and staying with the family. And times got even tougher when her father committed suicide.
During the Great Depression, jobs were hard to get, and Dottie being Jewish, there was so much Anti-Semitism that at first, no-one would employ her. “We’re not going to hire you,” a banker told her, “because we don’t hire Jews,” he said with a growl in his voice.
But desperate for income and after being repeatedly turned away, Dottie solved the problem, for she had to. She gave herself a “Christian [stage] name” and very quickly got a job.
Then Dottie hit the next wall, bias against women. But she solved that problem by smiling and by working harder and smarter than all the men near her and became invaluable to her employers.
And with Dottie, there were no complaints, no bitterness, just gratitude for her paycheck.
After World War 2, Dottie ran the office for a very successful Jewish Doctor and this gave her a dependable paycheck. But her husband had a gambling addiction and he compulsively lost his money, which jeopardized the security of their two children and which caused Dottie so much heartache, that at one point, she had a nervous breakdown.
But she quickly got back on her feet, for she had to as everyone depended on her. For years, her husband owned a successful business but he lost the profits at the race track. Dottie would have someone drive her to the track and she’d collect some of his cash so that the family could have a nice home in Brooklyn. Her reliable paycheck took care of the family’s needs.
And the door to her Brooklyn home was always open. People checked in as if her home was a motel. They’d live under her roof, share their problems and ask for her advice and when they got back on their feet, they’d leave and new arrivals came in. Her heart was so big, she could not say no. And she took great pleasure in giving, with no expectation of anything in return.
For example, when her husband’s 15-year-old niece lost her parents, Dottie moved her into their home and treated her as a daughter, and kept her with them until she married five-years later.
But after their children, including this young lady, were grown and gone, and after more than 30-years of marriage, Dottie no longer asked her husband to stop gambling, she divorced him. And a few years later, met the love of her life, Sam Weinberg to whom she would be happily married for nearly 30-years, until he passed away.
But about 10-years into that marriage, when her son Mickey developed a severely crippling form of Multiple Sclerosis, Dottie and Sam said goodbye to their Brooklyn home and moved across the U.S. to a San Diego condominium to be near him. And along with her daughter Barbara and her husband Hal, they helped to take care of Mickey.
Dottie and Sam were in their 60’s but with hearts brimming with love they decided it would be no problem. Their condominium was part of a large complex and as always her door was wide-open. Soon she’d made a large group of new friends and she kept many of the old ones who along with family members came 3,000 miles to San Diego to visit.
Over time, Mickey’s problems grew worse and the home came to include care-givers. But for Dottie, more people meant more social activity and some of the care-givers became like family.
And life went lovingly on for many years. But then several years ago, Sam, at 93, passed away. He was a charming man who remembered names, loved to tell jokes and stories and to dance and to create opportunities to celebrate life. He was Mr. Personality and his loss hit Dottie hard.
But with the support of Barbara and Hal, and her wide circle of friends and family, Dottie adjusted to Sam’s passing and lived a normal, happy life.
Until four years ago. Her son Mickey was diagnosed with cancer and within a few months, he was gone. And with his passing, Dottie let go and a short time later, at 92, she left us. And I say “us” to include you, for you would have enjoyed her and she would have cared for you as well.