The Silent Servant

There are people in our world who live among us that are special, unique and different. These people may not know themselves who they are and what they represent but they live their lives in such a way that upon reflection, we can discover who they are.

April 20th, 2023, beyond his passing, we now seek to reflect upon the life of Andre Grun.

A tzaddik in Judaism means “righteous person.”

This term is often used to describe someone who lives a life devoted to ethical and moral excellence. Tzaddiks are individuals who put others before themselves and who are always looking for ways to help those in need. They are the silent servants of our world, quietly going about their business, never seeking recognition or reward.

Their actions are often small and seemingly insignificant, but they have a profound impact on those around them. A Tzaddik may spend their days volunteering in a soup kitchen or offering a listening ear to a friend in need. They may offer kind words of guidance or simply lend a helping hand.

What sets a Tzaddik apart from others is their motivation. They are not driven by self-interest or the desire for personal gain. Instead, their actions are rooted in a deep sense of compassion and love for their fellow beings. They see the world with a different set of lenses, always looking for ways to alleviate the suffering of others.

In a world that often values power, status, and wealth over kindness and compassion, the Tzaddik stands out as a beacon of hope. They remind us that small acts of kindness can have a profound impact and that even the quietest person can make a difference.

While we may not all be destined to become Tzaddiks, we can all take inspiration from their example. We can strive to live our lives with greater kindness and compassion, to put the needs of others before our own, and to be a force for good in the world.

Who would know they themselves are righteous? If they did know, would it change them?

It seems that for some reason, people who are righteous are unaware or blind to it and this may have some meaning or purpose that most of us simply can’t understand.

A few years ago, I wrote a post about Andre Grun, it was about his kindness and his behavior and how it informs us on what to do by example to be better.

Today, I’ll take a moment to share why Andre was a “Tzaddick” in our time and what we may consider as we navigate a world without him.

March 11th, 1944, World War II was nearing an end but the atrocities toward humankind continued. Andre was born in Tulle, France to Sam and Rose Grun.

His parents fled to Belgium where they were hiding and surviving through the end days of the holocaust. We know that Andre was hidden by clergy and buried alive to protect him and possibly hide his cries. I have heard over the years that if the family and Nuns were caught, everyone would have been slaughtered. Many of Andre’s family were killed during the war as part of the Nazi process to wipe the earth clean of the Jewish people. Andre and his parents were able to escape and later, in 1951 Andre and his family took the SS Liberty across the Atlantic to New York to meet with and live with his uncle at 104th in the Bronx.

Andre stayed in the Bronx and eventually with his parents moved into an apartment on Cruger Avenue near Pelham Parkway.

This is where the story begins for how Andre became a part of our lives.

August 1982, or sometime not long before then my mother was approached by Andre where she worked at a place called Tires Incorporated. He knew of her through a mutual friend and sought to ask her out. When she came home and told us about him, initially, I was against her getting involved with him. She had dated other people before and getting attached to people and having them leave was difficult for me. Regardless, she chose to go out with him a few times and see how things would go.

When we met him, he was immediately who we would know him to be for the rest of his life. Andre was fun. He enjoyed being out, driving, roller coasters and all sorts of food. He was in a lot of ways a big kid. He could be serious and he was certainly stubborn but more than anything else, he was a “helper.”

It was in his nature, the core and fabric of his existence to help people. He was a first responder for anyone in need. If he knew they needed help, he was there. He was quiet about it, it was simple. Andre was a complicated man but the way he interacted with the world and the people he loved was so very uncomplicated. He was honest about his feelings. He was always up front, and he just made things easy.

More recently,

Service ..

Helping at a Veterans Event

We could add so very things to the list of what Andre did and how he served people. He lived by unspoken practices. His words weren’t written with sophisticated thought and aspirational leadership. He had an opinion about things, and he shared it with us but for us and I believe the people he impacted, it was mostly in his action and his presence that he would literally create a sense of amazement, wonder and question.

Why would a person do so much for others and not ask for anything in return?

Why would a person silently help and serve almost hidden from plain view?

Andre was there.

As a military veteran, we sign a contract, even if we don’t want to do something, we now signed, and we are committed to this work. If we don’t do what we agreed to do, we are held accountable by outside forces. We finish our contract and from there, we may be recognized for our work, for our sacrifice, for putting ourselves in harm’s way.

Andre never signed a contract, he never needed to be held accountable by anyone. When he made a promise, he kept it. He was there, even when things were difficult, and it was possible that he wanted to get away. He stayed. I remember one event, where an airline crashed, I can’t remember which airport, but he was there with the canteen to serve the responders and be of service. He said, the smell of jet fuel, bodies and materials everywhere and death was very difficult. Difficult to him meant overwhelming to others. He stayed on the scene and helped get people through it.

Have you ever wondered, where do fire and policemen go during a catastrophic event for external moral support, love and motivation?

The volunteers of the Red Cross, Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Service and other authorized people are there to give the men and women support. Support in the form of a cup of coffee but also, motivation through a word, a thank you, or something that may be said in between the fight.

Andre didn’t fight the dragon, he didn’t pull the hoses, he didn’t man the fire truck, but with my own eyes, I can tell you, he would through a few words motivate and invigorate people. Supercharging them with purpose, passion and clarity of the goal. Fighting the fires, clearing up debris, serving food, helping the homeless. Hard to express or explain exactly what he did as there wasn’t a specific formula to his approach other than, to be present, engaged and share his energy.

For Stacey and me, he was always on the scene. First responder, whatever was needed. Always there, always ready. He didn’t play games or mince words. If he thought you were onto something wrong, he would tell you. The kind of raw honesty that can sting a bit sometimes but was much needed if you wanted clarity in your life.

As for love, I’ll share for you an exemplar.

I had my Bar Mitzvah oh… so very many years ago.

In this recent image, you may see he is wearing a yarmulka. This was from my Bar Mitzvah, he had it on his person since April 1985. In his wallet, he carried images of me, and Stacey and they were never to be removed.

So much could be said and stories to be told. In practice, Andre would not want anyone to seek to emulate him exactly. I am fairly confident that he’d tell you to do it your own way. He did believe strongly in being present and taking action to be helpful. He had many small acts of kindness with a high frequency, but he also did many things with intent and purpose for a greater cause.

I was looking for words here. Just, thinking about it. There are people that just do good things and seek to help others because they have a desire to be part of something that makes them happy through being purposeful in the moment.

Andre was there in the place where things may have fallen through the cracks. He was in the space, filling in the blanks not just for my mom, sister or myself but for others. He was felt. People that met him, loved him with almost some immediacy. He was who he was, there was no other Andre, no hidden agenda, just Andre.

He wasn’t a deity, a famous man in religion or otherwise. His name will not be placed on a great wall engraved in a shrine for all to know for all of human history. However, for certain with no question, he touched something on this earth that forever changed it in a subtle way which compelled the butterfly to effect all of human history and this was done in a way that he wanted it to be, silent, meaningful, purposeful and something of service to all of us.

We are all better for Andre Grun.. and this is the way, he wanted it to be.

6 thoughts on “The Silent Servant

  1. The world around Andre has been made a better place and got you and Stacy a love the one could have filled the way he did. May he live on in your memories and the good deeds you will do in his name. Andre was so special and will be thought of for all his kindness for ever!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written. From what you had said about him, I was sad that I never got the chance to meet him but from what you’ve written I feel as though I know him…even if it’s just a little bit. Thank you for including the photos. I can see the kindness in his eyes and in his smile. His lasting impact can be felt from all that you do to help others you barely even know. His spirit of service lives within you. I am truly sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully written. From what you had said about him, I was sad that I never got the chance to meet him but from what you’ve written I feel as though I know him…even if it’s just a little bit. Thank you for including the photos. I can see the kindness in his eyes and in his smile. His lasting impact can be felt from all that you do to help others you barely even know. His spirit of service lives within you. I am truly sorry for your loss.


  4. Very beautifully said howie I truly loved Andre to me ge will always be cousin Andre .. he truly will be missed RIP sweet man


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