When Andrew was about eleven or twelve and Nicole about nine, Lonya came by the house the week before Purim and gave them each a small basket of Purim treats, a Purim Basket. I had known Lonya for years from playing hockey, and she had met and talked to my kids several times at the various rinks we played in. The bags contained some hamentashen cookies, candy, and small gifts, part of a Jewish tradition known as mishloach manot. Basically it is a mitzvah, making sure people have enough food for the Jewish holiday of Purim, but also a mitzvah to give charity, especially to children. Although Nicole was eager to accept the gift unconditionally, and loved the cookies and gifts, the gift puzzled Andrew. He had only met Lonya a few times, he was not close friends with her, he did not celebrate Purim other than in Hebrew school, and had never received a gift before that was not associated with his something he related to – his birthday, Chanukah or Christmas. He did of course eat everything an play with the toys, but he thought about it a lot.
He stored it in the back of his mind for years. Every once in a while he would ask me about it and ask how Lonya was doing. Over the years, he bought small items with the intention of donating them to someone who could not afford them. He routinely donated his unused toys and clothes to the needy, even asking Nicole for her unused toys to donate. This became something that he did throughout his life. Even in Boulder, instead of throwing stuff away, he would bring it to a donation site and leave it there in hopes that someone would find it and use it.
I thank Lonya for teaching Andrew this valuable life lesson that changed his way of thinking. You touched and effected my son’s life in a vey positive manner, for that I am forever thankful.
A year or so later while, and I am sorry to have to make this into a hockey story, Andrew was talking to me in the car ride home from a game. He mentioned that one of the players on his team, Robert (not his real name), was tying a pair of hockey sox around his shoulders to give the appearance under his jersey that he was wearing shoulder pads. He didn’t know why, neither did I. All I knew was that Robert came from a family that did not have the means to buy a lot of nice things, that he received a scholarship to play hockey with the organization, and that when we traveled he stayed in another players room to save money. I figured it was for financial reasons that he used the sox – he could not afford a new set of shoulder pads. Thinking about it, Robert also had ratty old gloves, and skates that were too small for him.
In a day or two I talked to my young son again and told him why Robert had the sox, and that he should not mention it in the locker room as to not embarrass him – it probably already bothered him that the other players knew, but let’s not bring it up. Andrew’s immediate response to me was that he could give his pads to Robert and we could go out and buy some new ones. Andrew always loved new equipment. Although a good idea, I told him that his would not fit Robert – Andrew was about 140 pounds, Robert about 180. He didn’t let it go and pushed me more. He asked if any of the Manhattanville players that we were friends with had old pads that they didn’t want – they get new equipment in college. I wasn’t sure but I would ask. It took a little while, but eventually Andrew’s coach, Coach Rich, did get used, and some new, equipment from Manhattanville, and Robert got nice new equipment, including skates, to replace the only equipment he could afford.
Andrew learned a lesson from this, and learned compassion for others through Robert. I also have to thank Coach Rich for stepping in, seeing a need, and using his contacts and friendships to help out tremendously. It might have seemed a small thing back then, but it shaped how Andrew thought from then on.
Andrew’s neurologist, Dr. Roseman, ran in a coat drive for disadvantaged youth in and around Westchester for several years. Andrew cleaned out his closet and found a few coats to donate, he felt pretty good about that. But when we were at a rink that weekend and he saw a dozen or so unclaimed coats in the lost and found, he asked me about them. If you have ever been in a rink, there is always a box somewhere called the lost and found, and it is always over flowing with jackets, hats, gloves, skates, etc. Most things in the box are never claimed, and eventually thrown away. We talked to the rink manager who showed us the back room where he had about twenty unclaimed kids coats that were going to be thrown away soon. The smile on Andrew’s face when he asked if we could have them to donate and was told yes was priceless. He got a couple of bags and packed them all into the bags and filled the back of my truck. This turned into Andrew’s Bar Mitzvah project.
This repeated itself at almost every rink we went to from November through January. All in all, Andrew collected over a hundred and fifty children’s coats, bagged them and stored them in our garage. Finally in January we brought them over to Dr. Roseman to give out to the needy. I was happy to have my garage back, and Andrew was so thrilled when he got a hug and a huge thank you from the doctor.
Thank you Dr. Roseman for giving Andrew a project that he turned into a mission.
This was Andrew. He was compassionate and constantly thought about other. He did not have a lot of material possession, he did not keep stuff he had no use for, and did not really collect anything. He used what he needed and gave the rest away. (other than computer stuff and gaming systems and games, which he had way too much of).
Last summer he asked me for a computer for a friend of his, I didn’t even recognize the name. He said his friends mother did not have a job and she was going to the library to use their computer to find a job, and that they could not afford a computer. I had a spare unused computer in the house he asked for. Andrew cleaned out that computer, reformatted it, reinstalled Windows and all the drivers, and Microsoft Office, and set up that computer in their house. He also punched a whole through the wall so they could connected it to their neighboring apartments internet (with their permission of course). He was very happy to help them out, but only told me, never made it public or told his other friends. He never wanted the attention, he just wanted to help out.
I shared these stories for a few reasons. One is that it shows a lot about Andrew. What shaped his thinking, and how he reacted to what he heard and saw in life. Second is to thank those who shaped his life in a positive manner, without knowing it or asking for it, but they had a very positive influence on Andrew. And third, so when we start Andrew’s foundation this spring, you will know why we are doing what we are doing in his name, in his memory, and in his honor.
If you experienced Andrew’s generosity, his thoughtfulness, his compassion, his charity, everyone would greatly like to hear about it. Please post a comment, even anonymously, but share with others so everyone can see what Andrew was all about.