In the summer of 1990, I broke my right arm while playing with friends. It was more or less inconsequential to the people around me, but to 6-year-old me, it was devastating. I couldn’t swim with my cast, I couldn’t play ball with my friends—my summer was virtually ruined.

One Sunday, my parents took me to visit the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The Rebbe would greet visitors (who often waited in line for hours) with a few words of blessing, handing them a dollar bill to be given to charity, because, as the Rebbe explained, “when two Jews meet, it should benefit a third.”

I walked by with my arm in its cast, expecting the same dollar and blessing that thousands of others received that day. But the Rebbe looked at me as though I was the only person in the world, the only person who mattered. The Rebbe handed me a second dollar and blessed me with a refuah shleimah, a speedy recovery.

This was the summer of 1990. The Gulf War was about to begin, and the safety of the people in Israel was on everyone’s mind, especially the Rebbe, to whom the world turned for blessings and advice. Communism was crumbling, and an enormous wave of immigration from behind the Iron Curtain was beginning. The Rebbe was sending emissaries to the countries of the Eastern Bloc to create what is now the network of Chabad-Lubavitch institutions that continues to be the premier resource for Jews throughout the region. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of Jews looked to the Rebbe for guidance.

And the Rebbe looked at a little 6-year-old girl and realized that to her, what mattered was not geopolitics or regime change or refugee rehabilitation. What mattered to her was her broken arm. And at that moment, that was all that mattered to the Rebbe as well.

It has been 32 years since that encounter. Today, I am privileged to direct Chabad of Hewlett with my husband, Rabbi Nochem Tenenboim. From its beginnings in our living room and then in a small storefront, our community has grown exponentially. But the Rebbe’s care for the individual, which he demonstrated to me that summer day, continues to be the guiding force behind our philosophy.

Yes, it’s wonderful to coordinate large-scale community events, it’s breathtaking to greet the growing crowds at the door during the High Holidays, and we’re excited for the opening of the new and expanded community center.

But what matters most is the elderly woman alone at home who needs someone to call her and make sure she’s OK. What matters is the young mother who could use some home-cooked meals as she recovers from bringing new life into the world. What matters is the small child who needs words of encouragement that one day, it will all be better.

It’s easy to get caught up in the big-picture events that are happening today; after all, we’re living in a time that our grandchildren will read about in history books. War, disease and economic uncertainty seem to make everything else pale in comparison. But we can’t let that happen. Even as we work towards making the entire world a better, healthier, more peaceful place, we must never lose sight of the individual.

The Rebbe never did.