The raindrops beating rhythmically against the windowpane produce a chant of their own. "Stay in bed. Don't get up. Stay in bed. Don't get up," over and over again. Reluctantly I pull out my arm from the protective covering of the comforter to glance at the alarm clock. The green, luminous numbers look strange and eerie in the darkness of the early winter morning. Thirty-five minutes, precious moments, before the shrill alarm will break the quiet of the night to declare the beginning of a new day. I turn over, make myself comfortable, and let my thoughts drift.

This is a perfect day for cleaning closets and rearranging cabinets and drawers – tasks that are typically set aside for "a rainy day." There are letters to be written, books to be read, buttons to be sewn – endless tasks just perfect for a stay-at-home day. I would love to spend this day indoors, however, responsibilities necessitate my going out.

I can visualize the drabness of the day, the gray sky, the wetness of the street, the chill and discomfort of a rainy day. I know just where the streets will be difficult to cross because the clogged sewers create deep puddles that overflow the curbs. I can feel the wetness seeping into my leather pumps, and I make a mental note to remember to wear boots or sneakers. I can see the muddy water splashing my clothes as the cars whiz by through the streets. And suddenly, in the midst of all this, a memory of a rainy day of long ago brings a smile to my face.

It was raining very, very hard. I would never have gone out, but it was the final day to pay some bills and I had to get to the bank. It happened about thirty years ago. I was a young married woman with infants in the house. In those days, my husband was a ritual slaughterer. It wasn't an easy schedule, especially for a newlywed couple. Having relocated to Brooklyn, NY, from Boston, Mass., where my family and friends lived, I found the situation to be quite an adjustment. Fresh chickens were slaughtered daily, or rather nightly, so the butchers could pick up their merchandise at the crack of dawn. And on Thursdays or the eve of holidays, many would arrive in the early hours to purchase freshly slaughtered chickens.

My husband went to work 10:00 at night and came home about 7:00 in the morning. The schedule sometimes varied from midnight or 2:00 a.m. until the mid-morning. As the infants were waking up, wet and hungry, howling and screaming, he was coming home to sleep.

One advantage in this situation, however, was the fact that I could arrange my errands with my husband as the sleep-in (or rather sleeping) baby-sitter. On very cold, windy days or rainy days, this was indeed a great bonus.

Chana Sharfstein
Chana Sharfstein

It was raining very, very hard. I would never have gone out, but it was the final day to pay some bills and I had to get to the bank. I dressed for the occasion with boots, umbrella and raincoat. I wore my rainy-day winter hat, a tight-fitting knitted cloche which we created in the bungalows during the summer. They were really quite ugly, but in those days we thought they were rather smart looking.

I was walking down Eastern Parkway toward Kingston Avenue. The usually busy street was quite deserted. The morning traffic had been reduced to a trickle. This was the mid-morning slump, and the heavy rain had prevented most people from going out. My head was bent down to avoid the strong wind and rain. I was totally absorbed in my own thoughts, only concerned with remembering all my errands and then hurriedly returning home. I was beginning to feel chilled and soaked. The umbrella couldn't offer much protection because the strong wind kept pulling it away, and when it began to turn inside out, I closed it in frustration.

And then, on this stretch of completely empty, deserted sidewalk, I suddenly noticed a pair of feet clad in men's shoes. I continued walking and noticed the feet steadily moving toward me. And just as we were about to pass each other, I heard a cheerful, friendly greeting "a guten tog," a good day.

I glanced up and within seconds my face must have registered an entire series of rapidly changing emotions. I was totally surprised, astounded, overwhelmed, excited and momentarily speechless. I could not believe it. Standing there, right in front of me, was the Rebbe, of righteous memory. He gave me a broad, happy smile, nodded his head, tipped his hat, and briskly continued on his way to Lubavitch World Headquarters.

The umbrella couldn't offer much protection because the strong wind kept pulling it away, and when it began to turn inside out, I closed it in frustration. I stood there, in the midst of the torrential rain, clutching my broken umbrella, a huge smile lighting up my face. I no longer felt the wind or the rain. I no longer felt the discomfort of the wet, miserable day. The previous moment had come and gone – just a moment – but the impact of that exchange warmed up my entire being. The gray drabness of the day had not changed, but it no longer appeared that way to me. I was oblivious of the physical surroundings. This was an extraordinary day. I could feel the warmth of the sun hidden beyond those heavy, gray clouds. Yes, every cloud does have a silver lining. And indeed the sun is always there behind the clouds

The shrill ring of the alarm intrudes on my journey of remembrance. I feel happy and excited. The rain is just temporary, a necessity between days of sunshine – no longer a threat – but just a minor inconvenience.

The power of a smile almost defies description. A genuine smile arises from deep within. It conveys a non-verbal message in powerful body language, a message containing warmth, concern, caring and good will. It brings forth in the recipient similar feelings of kindness.

As it states (Proverbs 27:19), "As in water, face answers to face, so is the heart of man to man." A smile can provide strength and encouragement, not only momentarily for the impact can have far reaching effects.

Of course a smile from the Rebbe is very special and thus more than three decades later I can still recall that precious experience, relive it over and over again and be warmed by it. However, every smile is important, yes, even yours. Every smile carries within it the power of brightening up someone's day, of bringing happiness and good will to those around us, so the sun can shine within us even on stormy, rainy days.