They live in California, but the father is from the Ukraine. He knew what tefillin were, but the boys had never seen them before. When I called them over the father told the boy to "go ahead."
When I was putting the arm piece on the boy he asked, "What are these?"
I said, "When you put these on it means that you are going to grow a long beard, marry a Jewish girl, and have 10 kids."
"Oh no!" he tried to pull his arm away but I pulled it back; "It's okay don't worry. What they really are…" I explained as I continued to put the arm piece on, "is a commandment to the Jewish men. There are portions of the Torah written in the boxes and it means that we will do what G-d tells us to do and that we will think about what G-d tells us to think about."
He was a lot more comfortable with this explanation than the first.
When they finished reading the Shema I stood them close to the Kotel and said; "You didn't come all the way from California just to look at the stones. You came here to experience something about life, to see what is going on here that is not happening anywhere else in the world. G-d is equally everywhere. There is no more G-d in this place than in any other place. But here He makes it easier for us to find Him. Close your eyes and picture all the good things you want to bring into the world, and don't forget to thank Him for all the good that He has given you, and ask Him to protect the Jews all over the world who are under attack right now…."
They stayed there by the Kotel for a long time, and even after they finished with their prayers they were in no hurry to take the tefillin off and leave.
When the boy came back and put out his arm for me to take off the tefillin I said, "If you promise to marry only a Jewish girl I'll take them off or else I'm not going to let you go." He smiled and promised.
All the way from California, not religious, saw a lot of things while they were on their trip…I think the Kotel experience will stay with them longer than any of the other things they saw.