There’s Elf on a Shelf and there’s Mensch on a Bench, but we have a “Mystery Mensch” in our midst. Mensch is the Yiddish word for a good person. Our Mystery Mensch got busy crocheting colorful throws to keep her busy since March and quarantine set in. More than a dozen of these handcrafted gifts were sent by the Mystery Mensch who had lived in Chappaqua for 20 years before relocating to Virginia.
The Mystery Mensch doesn’t necessarily know all the people she crochets for. She asked friends in Chappaqua to recommend recipients. “They have to be a good human being who does good for the community. I would ask people who they thought I should make a throw and they threw out names to me. Cristina Lee was one of them.” The Mystery Mensch would contact the recipient and ask them to send her a picture of their couch and four of their favorite colors.
“I was very grateful to be chosen,” said Cristina Lee, a founder of the Tri-State Mask Making Group. “It’s a very special gift, especially because she made it with so much love during COVID. She did it for special people and I’m honored.”
Our Mystery Mensch has a history of performing acts of kindness. The former Westchester County parole officer organized a meal train for someone who was undergoing treatment for cancer whom she only knew from Facebook. She took her to the doctor and checked in on her regularly. She was a source of comfort to this woman who says she will be forever grateful to her.
When she moved to Richmond three years ago to be near one of her children she continued to do good deeds. Last year she made scarves for first grade children in a disadvantaged school in Richmond. “I don’t have the social life I had in Chappaqua,” the Mystery Mensch explains. “I needed something to do.” She plans to crochet scarves for the Kindergarteners in the school.
Two years ago, she got involved with another project. She joined a small group of people who would meet immigrants at the Richmond bus station coming from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who were on their way north from Immigration camps in Texas.
The group of volunteers brought them care packages of food, clothing and drinks. “Many of my Chappaqua friends sent me boxes of food and treats and drinks. I couldn’t afford to keep buying things. It was my Chappaqua friends who stepped up and sent me stuff. That’s when collaboration became one of my favorite words.”
The Mystery Mensch also started what she calls “Bagel Thursday.” “I have been getting donated bagels and people come to my house and pick them up from my porch.”
Crocheting the multicolored striped throws was beneficial for the Mystery Mensch as well as the lucky recipients. “I don’t have much to do since retirement and not being able to socialize now because of COVID-19, I needed to keep busy.” She watches a lot of television while she crochets away. “I miss going out for coffee and lunch or dinner with friends.” Prior to COVID-19 she traveled a lot to visit her children and has been to South Africa since her retirement.
When asked what lessons she learned in life, she said, “I’ve learned to be humble.” That explains her wish to be anonymous for this story and sums up the Mystery Mensch quite well. An unpretentious person doing good for the pure joy of the deed. A real Mensch!