Jewish Journal

One Cell Phone At A Time

by Ben Spielberg

November 7, 2012 | 11:27 am

There have been two events in my life in which I have found a phone.

Four years ago, I was in line at a bagel shop. I was squirrelly and sweaty and my foot would not stop tapping. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shiny BlackBerry sitting on the counter, unclaimed. I walked up the counter and I smiled; I flirted and winked and as I ordered “one everything bagel with butter,” I slid the entrancing BlackBerry into the front pocket of my greasy and tattered jeans.

The phone began to buzz and beep and make stupid mechanical noises. I licked the butter off of my bagel and threw the rest of my meal in the trash. While walking away, a teary-eyed blonde woman approached me and asked if I had seen anyone with her brand new BlackBerry. I negated her question and walked away. The phone continued to ring, vibrate, and yell 8-bit tones at me until I dropped it into the hands of my dealer the next day.

Six months ago, I was on a hike (and coincidentally, just as sweaty as I was in the bagel shop). My feet were tired; I was thirsty and annoyed. On the ground, there was an abandoned iPhone. It was dirty and the screen was cracked and the battery was almost dead. After asking people in the surrounding area if they knew the owner, I took up the duty of returning the phone to its rightful owner.

It was not as simple as one may think. The iPhone’s language was Indonesian (of which I am not fluent) and there was a passcode required to make phone calls. I wiped the dirt off, gave it a full charge, and waited for the high-pitched blips and twangs of one thousand phone calls and text messages. There were none.

The next day, I managed to access and text six or seven foreign numbers from the phone.  Moments later, I received a call from a not-so-foreign number (323) and was greeted with excitement, joy, and praise. The phone belonged to a nine-year-old boy who was heartbroken to have lost it. They picked it up the next day and brought me Indonesian cookies in celebration of my efforts. The cookies were disgusting (I ate all of them), but I felt good about myself.


We practice T’Shuvah as an action, but it doesn’t have to be a monumental action. T’shuvah can be taken in microscopic doses; administered in small strides to make the world a better place. The major differences between these two experiences is not that one happened “in addiction” and one “in recovery.” The difference is that one involved doing the next right action and one did not. My actions six months ago did not offset the actions I took four years ago, but I can still do the next right thing--one trendy cell phone at a time.

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