It was the Great Depression of the 1930’s and an immigrant family like many families of that time struggled just to put food on the table and to keep a roof over their heads.
Jobs were scarce and there was no safety net. A job loss could put a family out on the street and leave them standing in a soup line.
This family had come to America from Egypt in the boom times of the 1920’s, hoping to achieve the American dream. In Egypt, the father was a successful shopkeeper but in America, speaking limited English, he worked long hours as a janitor.
To stretch his income and to take care of his wife and little son, he managed a five story walkup tenement building in New York City’s densely populated lower east side. The building was filled to the rafters with immigrants from all over the world.
With so many people packed together in tiny apartments and with paper thin walls the noise from inside the buildings and from the streets was sometimes nearly unbearable.
Early in the 1930’s, the family was blessed with the birth of their only child, a son named Nasi. By the time Nasi was five-years-old, he knew that although they as a family had very little and barely got by, his mother shared what they had to help others in need.
She offered food to neighbors many of whom were struggling to feed their children. Sometimes she’d take little Nasi by the hand and they’d go to the local shelter, and donate whatever clothes they could spare.
“But I only have two jackets,” Nasi cried out as his mother donated one. “I know,” she replied as she put her arms around him. “But you still have one. The little boy who will receive this coat has none, and it will protect him from the snows and icy winds of winter.
“Anyway,” she said softly. “I’ve already started saving a little money each week to buy you a new bigger coat.” As she hugged Nasi she added “Be thankful you have a coat, and you have a home and you have food on the table.”
Nasi was very thankful and determined to make the most of his life. He became an outstanding student, qualifying for scholarships to advance his education. Eventually he graduated at the top of his class from law school and rose to become a very successful attorney and a judge on one of America’s highest courts.
To honor his parents, Nasi has long conducted pledge drives at his mosque. And he encourages the congregation to help others regardless of their religious affiliation.
But Nasi does something else remarkable that few people know of. At a local shelter he regularly makes donations and each time he quietly adds something very special. It is a new jacket just the right size for a five-year-old child.