I decided to change my davening location for Yom Kippur, which netted unseen benefits. The original reason for the change was the particularly drafty nature of my previous seat; who needs to fall ill on Yom Kippur? I also knew that an added perk was that my friend would be davening in the same row. A little chizuk via companionship is a good thing.
Anyhow, Hashem sent me a little messenger, in the form of an elderly European woman who was none less than a Holocaust survivor. When I entered the row last night, there were two open seats, and I chose to sit in the one that was closest to her. During davening, she noted that I was good at knowing where we were in davening, and asked me to help her keep her place. I didn't want to let her down, because the truth of the matter is that I am not the best person when it comes to keeping up; I find my mind often drifts, which results in losing my place. But since she seemed to be counting on me, and she was without companions, I decided it was a real honour to help her out any way that I could.
Whenever you find yourself in such a situation, it always seems that the one asking for help winds up helping you more than you help them. This woman was bursting with kavannah, and I found my davening being shored up by her fervour. By the end of davening today, I was so grateful to Hashem for the opportunity to sit by her, help her keep her place as best I could, and be rewarded a million-fold with her stories of Hungary/the Holocaust and her incredible gut-wrenching prayer. Right before Havdalah, she complemented my davening (if only she knew the truth!), and asked how her davening was; incredibly, she felt herself lacking because she doesn't keep up like the Bais Yaacov girls. I told her with much enthusiasm that she was wonderful, that she had such inspirational kavannah. To which she responded that yes, in Europe that's what they had.
Now if only we could find a way to meld the strengths of both North American and European davening, we'd really be getting somewhere! But I suppose that's what the "Praying with Fire" series is all about. Todah Hashem, for blessing me with such a wonderful gift, on Yom Kippur no less! May having davened in her company net us all a most glorious year (bli ayin hara)...