Upon coming home one Wednesday afternoon, I was met by a sink full of dishes.

Washing dishes has never been my favorite chore; truth be known,I had been remiss in phoning Sandra to confirm my Shabbat invitation it’s a task that usually falls, by default, to my husband. But this afternoon, I rolled up my sleeves and turned on the warm sink water, unaware that by taking on this chore, it would become a channel for helping a life. While we may be the actors, G‑d is always the Director and Producer.

I began washing the dishes . . . and thinking. For me, there’s nothing like flowing water to engage and amplify the thought processes, part of a stream of consciousness that, Kabbalistically speaking, flows down from higher spiritual channels. Although the ocean stirs me most—one of the perks of living by the beach—something as mundane as running a faucet can help facilitate the flow of ideas for a story or joggle my often rusty memory cells. Water flowing over the dishes and my hands, I suddenly remembered that I had been remiss, or at least late, in phoning Sandra to confirm my Shabbat-dinner invitation.

After texting my rabbi for Sandra’s number, I thought about last week’s Shabbat services, where I had seen Sandra wearing, as she always had at shul, a beautifully crafted gold Star of David. Sandra had been sitting in the back with a shul friend the last two months or so. It was rumored that this young woman in her 20s was not Jewish, but was interested in learning about Judaism. She also left when services ended instead of joining our congregation for the weekly Kiddush, making it challenging to get to know her.

Passing her on the way downstairs last week while wishing her a warm “Shabbat Shalom,” I noticed that Sandra’s eyes looked endearingly receptive. Whatever her affiliation, I had been wanting to help her feel accepted and at home here, as had others. I thought about the refrain we repeat while reading Leviticus 19:34: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the L‑rd your G‑d.” I took Sandra’s hand in mine and asked if she would give us the honor of joining my husband and me for Shabbat dinner next Friday. When she said she would, I told her I would call early in the week to give her my address.

I mentally returned to the task at hand: dish-washing. I heard the cell-phone beep that signals a text message, this one with Sandra’s phone number. I went into the bedroom and dialed her.

A quiet, hesitant voice, one I barely recognized, said “hello.” When I told Sandra who I was and that I was calling to confirm our Shabbat-dinner date, her voice sounded choked, her words almost indistinguishable. Suddenly, the floodgates opened, and I heard unmistakable sobbing on the other end of the phone.

Concerned, I asked her whether she’d like to take a walk with me on the beach and felt a great wave of relief when she agreed.

During our walk, I soon found out the reason for her burst of emotion. Feeling more alone than I ever could have imagined, Sandra told me she made a very time-based “deal” with herself. If the phone didn’t ring now, she said to herself, she was going to dispose of her Jewish star and forget about her Jewish journey. That was the very moment I called.

Our rabbi, who she dialed later that evening after our walk, told my husband that unbeknownst to me, that phone call was made at exactly the right time. Sandra had called him a number of times to express how depressed she was, and it became clear to him that she was walking down a very dark road.

Walking alongside one another on the beach, I was given a deeper,This was the last I saw her though limited, picture of Sandra. She said that she had a difficult childhood, and that the memory of a kind Jewish neighbor had become her impetus for exploring Judaism. She was currently working as a maid, cleaning hotel rooms part-time, and studying Judaism. She felt she hadn't connected with enough people in the community, and her relationship with the woman she always sat with in shul wasn't as close as I had assumed.

This was the last I saw her. She neither showed up at my home that Shabbat, nor took me up on the invitation to ring me if she needed to talk. Months later, her basement apartment was destroyed by Super Storm Sandy. Sandra found refuge in the home of a shul member, and later, I learned, found her own home outside our beach community. I hope she is satisfied with her life and has found the inner peace she was seeking.

That day during our walk, I was given a small glimpse into how an offer of hospitality might, with G‑d’s help, alleviate some of a stranger’s troubles, even if only for a short time. This experience taught me to reach out and lend a hand to others because we just never know when that “right” moment will be.