Her name was Samantha.

Not a lady, or a girl, or even a doll. Rather, Samantha was the gerbil in her little well kept, clean box.

It was after Shabbat, and my husband and I were taking our usual stroll around town. And, as usual, we sauntered into SuperPharm (a large shop selling cosmetics, drugs and household products).

That night we saw a sight that touched us both.

From behind, all you could see was that he was dirty and unkempt Slightly ahead of us in one of the aisles sat someone most people would look down on- a homeless person. From behind, all you could see was that he was dirty and unkempt, his clothes were torn, and there was a familiar stench coming from his direction.

From the front, however, you could see he was pushing a shopping cart, and instead of a young child or infant in the child seat- there was a cage.

Being forever curious, we approached him to take a look at what he had in the cage.

At this point, he opened the cage and took into his hands what looked like a rodent of some sort. He held it in his hands and then brought it to his mouth; he kissed it as if it were his child and put it back into the cage.

We approached the man and asked him what the rodent was and he told us that it was his pet gerbil. I asked if it had a name, and he said that it did - Samantha. I told him it was a lovely name, and he smiled at that and looked proud of himself.

Now, I am sure there are few of you who are not recoiling in your seat and thinking, ugh, how disgusting.

Let me try and show you a different angle on this.

From the first impression of this man, one would probably want to run as far away as possible. Here is someone living on the streets, dirty, unkempt, smelling bad, not been near soap and water for a long time. Our initial reaction is to recoil. And then upon seeing the gerbil, and seeing him kissing the gerbil, your thoughts are confirmed… stay away.

How many people are covered by the shell of their past? But what if you were to think, "Here is a guy, who, for whatever reason, cannot look after himself right now. Maybe he has been abandoned, abused or neglected, and this is all he knows, or this is his reaction to what has happened to him. (Studies on PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, show that suffering chronic abuse and abandonment can lead someone to this lifestyle.)

What if instead of thinking, "This man can't love or take care of anything," you were to think, "Look, he has a pet, a very well kept pet, in a clean and tidy cage. He gave her a name, he takes care of her, and he strokes and kisses her. This man can take care of something, just not of himself."

Let's reach out to this man, and instead of rejecting him, let's embrace him, just as he embraces his pet, Samantha.

Just asking him what kind of pet it was and if it had a name made him smile!

Doesn't our religion teach us to look past what is on the outside and what is initially presented? Doesn't it teach us to look deeper for the light within, no matter how that light presents itself, and to connect to it and help it to grow?

More than often, what is on the outside is just a cover, a shell. If you take the time to open it up and dare look inside, you may often find jewels.

How many people are covered by the shell of their past?

Let's get going to see the real light.