Photo by Jennifer Ward Barber, freshcrackedpepper.com
For the past nine years, I've been having coffee every morning with a group of fractious but wonderful men at our local coffee shop. This morning, as I bypass this meeting to write this post, it's not the caffeine I'm craving so much as the company.
Our crowd is mixed, and many are retired. There is Ty, a former fighter pilot in World War II who spent many years in the oil business. He is the most sharply dressed of our group and still has the ability to make the ladies blush. Daryl, a home builder, is always warm and friendly and makes everyone feel welcome. Jimmy Ray owns a chain of hardware stores and actually goes to work every day. John is there half the time, a civil war buff who has a historic home in Natchez but spends the other half of his time in Virginia. There are about ten others that drift in and out of our morning coffee session, including Father O'Conner, the priest from St. Mary's Basilica.
Then there is Jerry--my longest coffee friend, and one of the most interesting companions in our group. A true Natchezian, Jerry has stayed here to run his family businesses. He used to be an avid Chess player, but has since traded his passion for Texas Hold 'em, which we all play every Thursday. He also is one of the most knowledgeable collectors of American and Irish furniture I know.
I have learned many things from Jerry over the years, including much about his Jewish faith. One thing that's always stayed with me is the level of mitzvahs, or charity, written by 12th-century Jewish scholar and physician, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon. What I took from that conversation is that the highest level of giving is when the giver does not know the receiver; the act is genuinely out of the goodness of their heart. That has always touched me.