The Gardner’s Son


By Steve Hyatt


Back in the early 1970s money was very tight in my family. To make ends meet my Dad had several jobs. He worked full time at Pfizer Chemical making Penicillin. When he finished at Pfizer he jumped into his truck and put up TV antennas on local rooftops or he drove off to one of his clients where he was a professional gardener.  This was a time before the invention of the Weed Whacker, so when it was time to clip the grass around the fence posts of one of the estates; I got down on hands and knees and started to pull. Even though it was over 35 years ago I can’t go by a picket fence without cringing. There was many a day I’d go home with bloody fingers after pulling blades of grass by hand for hours on end.


I can still remember one particular day when I had what seemed like miles of fence to weed. Almost in tears I got up and complained that I’d been doing this same task for hours and I still had a long way to go. Dad came up to me and turned me around and said, “Instead of looking at how much you have left to do, turn around and admire how much you’ve already accomplished.” That one life lesson has stayed with me all these long years as my life’s journey unfolded.


Over the course of the last year I felt like I was constantly bombarded with bad news. We saw the tragedy in Mumbai, the implosion of the economy, the building tensions in the Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan and for the first time in many, many years I found myself in a spiritual depression. A depression so deep, so dark, that I couldn’t navigate out of it by myself. 


Several days before Rosh Hashanah two young “Roving Rabbis,” Yossi Silverstein and Shalom Ber Cunin came to Reno to meet with Jews throughout Northern Nevada. Now this was not the first time I’d met with young Rabbis that spent their summers meeting with Jews in far off places. It was however the first time I ever felt compelled to invite them to spend one on one time with me. So no one was more surprised than me when suddenly one Shabbos I invited them to come to my office at the newspaper and “learn.”


Moments after the invitation left my lips I asked myself, “Why did I just do that, what the heck did I just do? They are here to meet with unaffiliated Jews, Jews who are lost and need help. I don’t need help. I have been a member of Chabad for more than a decade. What could these two young guys possibly teach me?” As it turned out…..quite a bit!


We arranged to meet midday on the following Friday. Around 1:30 my receptionist called and said there were two young men here to see me.  They entered my office carrying a shofar and some reading material for us to discuss. Before we started learning Yossi raised the shofar to his lips and blew. It was all I could do not to laugh because the non Jews in the immediate area had no idea what was going on in my office but there was little doubt they heard and felt the power of the shofar.


After he was finished the three of us started to talk. We talked for more than an hour and never did get to the reading material they’d brought with them. We spoke of many things over the course of our time together but at one moment I found myself opening up and discussing my spiritual depression. Until that moment I had not discussed my feelings with a single soul, not my wife, not my Dad, not my Mom nor my Rabbi.


For months I had slowly and depressingly drowned in a spiritual morass that had relentlessly drained my energy and emotions. Yet in less than an hour these two 20-something Rabbis got me to open up about my feelings, ask questions and probe the depths of my personal despair. In less than an hour they pushed me to reexamine my entire spiritual journey from its humble beginnings in New London Connecticut to its many travels through Palms Springs, Delaware, Oregon, Nevada and beyond. In less than an hour these two young, passionate men reminded me to stop looking at how much more I had yet to accomplish and take a moment to “turn around” spiritually and remember all I had experienced and seen over the past 20 years. They took time out of their precious day to take this one, lone Jew by the spiritual hand and remind him that Hashem has always been with him and will never leave his side now or in the future. These two young men reminded me of the many small but powerful miracles I had witnessed over the years, many of which I had chronicled in this space. In less than an hour these two committed young men had helped me turn around and remember the joys of my spiritual garden and the many miraculous moments it had produced.


I am not sure who was more energized or amazed when they left that day, Yossi and Shalom Ber or me. It was one of those special moments that one never forgets. It was one of those moments that recharges one’s personal spiritual batteries and propels them to take the next spiritual step on their life’s journey. It was one of those special moments when one looks around and thanks Hashem for the small as well as the large miracles he provides each and every day. It was one of those days when the vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, of blessed memory, manifests itself right there in front of you. Years ago he sent out young emissaries just like Yossi and Shalom Ber to find and help Jews just like me, a mission that continues on today in towns small and large all around the world.


As I sat alone in my office that afternoon tears streamed down my face. The pain and doubts that had almost consumed me, literally choking my spirit and causing me extreme heartache had suddenly and thankfully disappeared in the blink of an eye. As I watched them drive away I couldn’t help but ponder that Rosh Hashanah was just a few days away. Rosh Hashanah a time when we go to Shul, and recognize Hashem as our King, and ask him to grant our families and our people around the world a happy, joyful, and prosperous new year.


I breathed a sigh of relief as I contemplated the notion that the end of one of my most challenging spiritual years was almost at hand and more importantly the beginning of a fresh, vibrant, hopeful one was just days away. I had forgotten the lesson I had learned in the garden so many years before. I had forgotten to reflect on the wonders and miracles that happen all around us each and every day if we simply just take the time to look.


It took two young men of faith and commitment to remind me. It took two young Rabbis who miraculously appeared out of nowhere one fine day in Reno, two young Rabbis that had no more of an agenda than to help their fellow Jews in need, two young Rabbis that embraced me just when I needed them the most.


Coincidence I think not!



Steve Hyatt

Human Resources Director


Reno Gazette Journal