A garbage truck stops and its driver jumps out. He had noticed a familiar car on the road. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a generous bill he had been saving, hands it to Maor Cohen and, in seconds he is back at his job. “What’ s this?” Maor call s out.
“For the children. The children with cancer at Ezer Mizion. To buy them a lego set.”
The maintenance man is not the only one. Hundreds of others throughout Israel have heard of Maor Cohen and contribute so that there will not be a shortage of lego sets. He is known at Ezer Mizion as the Lego Man.
It all began when Maor was six years old. His father suffered from cardiac problems and, in Maor’s words, the fact that I saw my father at breakfast was no guarantee that he would be there for supper. Maor’s childhood was fraught with terror each time his father was hospitalized. He needed a ‘security blanket’ and discovered it in lego. The imaginative creativity needed, the planning, the envisioning of a future all served to provide that security for the traumatized child.
And he didn’t forget. As an adult, he understood the fears of a child whose parent, sibling or maybe he himself is battling cancer. He saw that for them, too, lego eased the terror and banished the monsters lurking in their psyche.
It began with one lego set, with a once-a-week visit to Ezer Mizion. Now Maor visits 4, 5 times per week. it may be the kids at Ezer Mizion’s Oranit, its guest home for families battling cancer. And when these kids are hospitalized, he visits them in the hospital. The social workers all know him and contact him when a child is down. Just being told that the Lego Man is on his way is enough to put a grin on a face that hadn’t smiled in days.
There he is on one of his visits. “I was waiting for you,” shouts a beaming, young boy. “But first I have to go for an ultrasound. You’ll wait?”
Another child joyfully greets him. “I knew you’d come! I just knew it! I knew you’d come for my birthday!” His mother had promised to ask the Lego Man but she hadn’t been able to bring herself to make that phone call to the obviously so very busy Maor Cohen so she procrastinated. The mother’s joy was no less than her son’s.
Maor has dealt with hundreds of kids. He loves them and they love him back. Each one becomes part of him and it hurts – a lot – when one of them doesn’t make it. He remembers H. a boy who would give him from his own money to buy a lego set for other kids. “H. is gone now. His mother and I speak of his generosity under such circumstances. We both cry.”
Maor keeps pictures of ‘his‘ kids. As he gazes at some, tears fill his eyes. He remembers one who recently passed away. The hospital had told the parents to take him home and enjoy him as long as you can. The child absorbed the mood in the home. When Maor saw his face, he asked him, “ Do you like Fireman Sam?” In a flash, Maor was off to pick one up. He was so gratified to see the ‘light go on’ this child’s face as he handed him the package.
“I think of the ones who didn’t make it often. I know they’re in heaven now. I just hope they have lego there.”