| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 29

Dini leaned forward. “But we can discuss our office another time; we have something more pressing for today”


“WE need an office,” Dini commented as she sat down on Ayala’s couch for their weekly meeting.

Ayala, still holding the pile of laundry she’d hastily removed, flinched. “Sorry I didn’t have a chance to straighten up; I was on the phone all morning with that mother of the boy with meningitis. Baruch Hashem, the antibiotics seem to be working now.”

“Glad to hear,” Dini said.  “But I wasn’t complaining about your laundry; I’m just saying it would make a big difference to have a real office where we could do our administrative work. It would feel so much more professional, no?”

Ayala stopped herself from rolling her eyes. “And I suppose we should hire a receptionist as well?”

Dini’s eyes brightened. “Good idea!”

Ayala was about to mutter something about rich girls completely divorced from economic realities when the image of Dini’s successful volunteer event swam before her. She had to admit, when it came to motivating a crowd for a cause, Dini really did know what she was doing.

She winked. “If you raise the money for an office and a secretary, I certainly won’t complain.”

Dini looked momentarily startled, as if she hadn’t expected Ayala to be so agreeable. Have I been such a monster lately? Ayala wondered with a pang.

“The real question,” she went on, lightly, “Is whether the office will be in Ramat Beit Shemesh or Maalot Dafna.”

“What’s the question? We’ll have two, of course.” Dini chortled, and Ayala laughed as well.

Dini leaned forward. “But we can discuss our office another time; we have something more pressing for today.”

Ayala swallowed the twinge of resentment she always felt when Dini assumed control of their meetings. C’mon, Ayala. Isn’t it time you got over yourself? After seeing how hard Dini had worked on the event the other day — how much she’d been working on advancing Chesed Tzirel these past few months — could Ayala really still claim that she was so much more invested in the organization than Dini? Hadn’t Dini earned the right to set agendas and not just take orders?

Forcing herself to imitate Dini’s eagerness, she leaned forward as well and smiled. “What’s the pressing item?”

“Our volunteers. I have 25 women signed up and ready to help. If we want to keep up the momentum, we need to do some follow-up event soon.”

“How about a spa day?” Ayala asked, before she could stop herself.

“Ha ha.” Dini’s smile didn’t waver, but from the way her eyes flashed, Ayala thought she might have offended her.

“Joking,” she said hastily. “You’re right, we do need to follow up quickly. The thing is—” She paused, wondering how to say this delicately, “It’s amazing that we got so many more volunteers than we expected, but I’m not sure what 25 volunteers can do right now. I mean, how many families are we making meals for at the moment? Three? Four?”

Dini made a face. “Making meals? Do you want them to, like, drop out of the CT Volunteer Club before they even begin?”

Ayala glanced at her. “Sorry, I didn’t realize they only signed up for glamour volunteering.”

“Glamour volunteering!” Dini’s eyes widened. “Omigosh, I love it. Just think of the marketing potential!”

Ayala opened her mouth, then closed it. Really not worth it; there were some wavelengths too disparate to bridge. Still…. She gritted her teeth and raised a finger.

“If I see one single ad publicizing Chesed Tzirel’s ‘glamour volunteering,’ I’m closing the CT club immediately.”

Dini swung her sheitel over her shoulder. “You take things so seriously, Ayala. Sheesh.”

Ayala looked at her closely. Had Dini really been joking? Or was she just trying to save face? It startled Ayala to realize that she didn’t know. How could it be that they’d been friends for 16 years and Ayala still couldn’t read her accurately?

“Anyway,” Dini continued, “as it happens, I have an idea for a project our volunteers can work on. You know we were discussing whether or not it made sense to expand our services, now that we’re growing?”

Ayala cocked her head. Discussing? Dini had said, “Now that we have so many volunteers on board, we can finally start offering more services.” And Ayala, surprised by the way Dini was talking as if stating the obvious, had responded firmly, “Who says we want to offer more services? This is what Chesed Tzirel does, and it works.” In her mind, that had been the end of the discussion.

Apparently not.

“So, I had an idea,” Dini continued. “I mean, actually, it was my husband’s, but, y’know, same thing, right?” She gave a little giggle.

Ayala frowned slightly. Why did it feel like Dini’s husband was increasingly becoming their marketing strategist? More to the point, considering his ideas until now had been so on target, why, exactly, did they keep paying so much money to meet with upscale marketing consultants?

“What’s the idea?”

“We poll the families we’ve helped in the past to see whether they were satisfied with our service or if they’d have liked us to do more.”

Ayala raised an eyebrow. “More? This is what we do! We can’t do everything, Dini. We can’t… can’t make everything all better for everyone.”

“I didn’t say we can,” Dini said stiffly. “But just think. If we could make things even a little bit better, give even a little more help than we do now… wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Ayala shook her head. “It would be wonderful if we could improve what we already do. Like, I don’t know, bring in a social worker to train our volunteers to do hospital visits. But—”

She was interrupted by her phone. Recognizing the number, she picked up and said, “Hi, Mrs. Aaronson. How are you feeling?”

“Fine, baruch Hashem,” the elderly lady said. “I’m calling because I never thanked you properly for your help the other week.”

Ayala shook her head. “Yes, you did.” Mrs. Aaronson’s excessive gratitude always made her feel uncomfortable — particularly this time, after the whole fainting incident.

“Not properly,” Mrs. Aaronson insisted. “I have something to give you, but it’s so difficult for me to get out of the house.  Would you mind coming over, at your convenience?”

“Oh, really, that’s completely unnecessary,” she murmured. But she knew that wouldn’t cut it; this clearly meant a lot to the older woman. She shot a glance at Dini. “Does it work if I come by in a few minutes? And I’ll bring my partner to meet you as well.”

Ten minutes later, Ayala and Dini were sitting inside the Aaronson’s apartment, cups of lemonade and homemade oatmeal cookies thrust into their hands.

“They’re low-sugar, I hope you don’t mind,” Mrs. Aaronson said as she bustled around, clearly delighted to host her guests.  “My husband, you know, is diabetic.”

Ayala nibbled on a cookie, already formulating her apology to Dini. She’d thought they were coming for a five-minute gift presentation, but Mrs. Aaronson clearly had different expectations. She noticed that Dini had taken her tablet out of her pocketbook; was she already getting itchy about this waste of time?

“So sweet of you to come; we don’t get visitors too often,” she twittered. “So you also work for Chesed Tzirel,” she said, beaming at Dini. “You’re tzaddikim, all of you. True, true tzaddikim.”

Dini beamed back.

After a few minutes of small talk, Ayala cleared her throat. “Mrs. Aaronson, did you say you, um, had something to give me?” She felt awkward asking, but it was getting late. They were still in the middle of their meeting, and Dini did need to get back to Yerushalayim in time for gan pickup.

The older lady straightened. “Where is my head? Yes, dear.” She stood up, walked over to the small table next to the front door, and picked up the small gift-wrapped box.

Next to Ayala, Dini lifted her head, suddenly alert. “Um, excuse me, Mrs. Aaronson? Can I ask you a favor?”

Mrs. Aaronson smiled as she slowly made her way back to the couch.  “Of course, dear.”

Dini held up her tablet and smiled sweetly. “Would you mind if I take a picture of you and Ayala? Giving her a thank-you gift is such a beautiful gesture; you can’t imagine how much chizuk it gives us.”

Mrs. Aaronson blinked, as Ayala’s eyes narrowed.

“Oh! It’s really nothing to photograph. Just something small, I’m afraid.”

Dini waved her hand. “There’s no need to give anything. We so appreciate it. But the picture would mean a lot….”

The older lady shrugged. “I suppose you can. Why not?”

Dini hesitated for a bit. “I’m going to ask you something else, but only if you feel comfortable with it. See, we’re starting to fundraise for Chesed Tzirel, and it would help us so much if we could display pictures of satisfied clients like you. Of course, I totally understand if you’d rather not.”

Ayala’s mouth dropped open, aghast. “Dini!” she hissed, but Dini ignored her.

Mrs. Aaronson was rocking back and forth on her feet, clearly anguished. “Oh. Do you mean to — to publish my picture on a brochure? I — I don’t know. It seems so public, you know, and we’re really such private people. But if you say it would help Chesed Tzirel—”

Ayala opened her mouth to respond, but Dini answered quickly, “No, no, absolutely not. I was only checking if perhaps you wouldn’t mind at all. But you do, and I completely understand. Really. I’m also a private person,” she added, which, of course, was a total lie.

Dini quickly put away her tablet, but Mrs. Aaronson still seemed flustered as she handed Ayala her present.

“I’m not sure that was a good idea,” Ayala said carefully, once they were safely out of the Aaronson’s building.

Dini looked offended. “Why not? It would’ve been the perfect publicity opportunity.”

“Yes, but — putting an old lady like Mrs. Aaronson on the spot like that?” She waved her arms in the air, feeling her fury mounting the more she thought about it. “You say you’re thinking of publicity. But what about our reputation with Mrs. Aaronson? Until now she’d thought of us as a beautiful, selfless organization here to help people. Now we sound like we’re just out to exploit our constituents to raise more money!”

Dini was breathing heavily, partly because she was half-running to keep up with Ayala’s longer stride. “You’re blowing this way out of proportion,” she said. “Every organization needs to get publicity photos. All I did was ask her; I wasn’t pushy at all, and I totally accepted her no.”

Ayala shook her head. “I wish you would’ve asked me before you did something like that. You don’t even know Mrs. Aaronson; I do! I could’ve told you how she’d react! I could’ve—”

She stopped abruptly as she nearly bumped into Bracha on the sidewalk.

“Ayala!” Bracha said brightly. “How perfect, I was just on my way to speak with you!” She turned to Dini and gave her a polite nod. “Hi, Dini, how are you? What are you doing in RBS?”

“Chesed Tzirel meeting,” Dini said, returning Bracha’s nod.

“Got it.” Bracha gave an uncharacteristically shy smile. “Well, then, I guess it’s bashert you’re both here to hear my big announcement.”

Ayala’s heart dropped. Not now, Bracha! she screamed inside.

Unfortunately, Bracha hadn’t yet learned to mind read.

“I’ve made my decision; I’m willing to join Chesed Tzirel and train to do your medical liaison work.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 881)

Oops! We could not locate your form.