Call it inspirational, spiritual, religious, transcendental, compassionate, divine, all of which may befit a person who gathers hundreds of names once a year to pray for them as he walks the towns where they live, reciting their names in the hope of bringing a better outcome for tomorrow.
“This is not about me,” remarked the modest Matt Lazar, a principal of Nature’s Museum Store on Merrick Road in Bellmore, as it is about praying on behalf of someone who may need help as they live their lives with handicaps, terminal illnesses, even unexpected challenges into poverty.
“I pray for people who do make an effort to help themselves but need extra prayer” that it may help them, he continued. And he is not far from the tree which helped groom this gentle meditative stance: “All I can do for myself is pray that I have the strength to continue to help my family, my friends and my employees” in their times of need.
For Lazar, his form of prayer to those who may need help began in synagogue. “I prayed for people all the time in temple,” he told this magazine. But his humane nature may have received help from his father who, as a little boy, was stricken with polio and survived to walk with the help of a cane only.
“When the doctors told my grandmother he may never walk again, she asked the doctor what could be done,” Lazar said. The doctor said that only time would tell, but to massage his feet regularly and daily. “She massaged his feet four times a day for months,” Lazar recalls being told. And … it made all the difference in his father being able to walk again.
His father, walking with the help of a cane and who intimately came to understand the fate of fortune, built Nature’s Museum Store, giving Lazar and his brother Steve a life to build for their own. The facility employs 50 people who manufacture jewelry. When superstorm Sandy wrecked the South Shore neighborhoods, his facility was destroyed, he said.
Lazar said he kept his employees on, but reduced salaries to enable them to keep their jobs as he rebuilt the shop. “I cut my own salary and did without several things” he had become accustomed to enjoying, as perks of the manufacturing facility’s success.
While his father died in 2010, it wasn’t until 2012 the clear path to walking the avenues to contemplate their names came upon him. Not affiliated with any temple by then, he said, “I came to believe and understand that one does not need an actual edifice [of a temple or church] to be able to be heard from above” and walk for those who couldn’t. “It was Rosh Hashanah, and I put a suit on and got a list of names, such as family friends, relatives and others who were sick,” he said.
He was overweight by his own admission, and had two herniated discs. Once the walk was completed, he was exhausted and ached all over. But it spurred him to begin an exercise regimen because he felt desire to do the prayer walk again the following year.
By 2013 he had lost 13 pounds and had reached out to facebook to gather many more names to pray for during his Rosh Hashanah walk. “This is not simply a walk for Jewish people,” he told this magazine, “it is a walk for people of all faiths” and avenues – and their possible survival. That year he had 500 names.
With Rosh Hashanah this year from September 24 through the 26, Lazar had collected 50 names by the end of August and was expecting to gather up to 700 names for this year’s prayer walk. He has lost 38 pounds thanks to an exercise regimen – including long walks along Merrick Road – that has eliminated many of the pains he associated with being overweight. Plus, with more names he will walk a longer path for a longer time frame.
“My motto is: ‘There is no time like now,’” while he espouses the action creed: “Just do it.”
“We all have to try, “ he continued, which is what he will do on Thursday, September 25, when he starts on Merrick Road at 10 a.m. and walks west into Freeport, where he will then turn right and head north toward Sunrise Highway, turning right again onto Sunrise and walk the highway to Wantagh.
While he walks he will recite the names of those he has collected who ask only for a singular prayer for their challenges. “I hope I can be a conduit to be heard” on behalf of these people, he concluded.