Yesterday, as I was watching my daughter cross the street to go to a friend’s house, it started snowing. Not much, and no accumulation, but still, there it was.
Sunday, I was in California. Okay, Friday through Sunday. I was at the Aish HaTorah Partner’s Conference, which was amazing, inspiring, amazingly inspiring. I’m telling you, you should all go next year if you can.
So there I was, in the warm, and the sun (but also the horrible fires, which were far from where I was, but the hotel was filling up with people who had been evacuated), and I knew I was coming back to Cleveland, to the cold and the grey.
But home is home, and after a really, really, really intensely busy few months (Tishrei, then the Challah Bake, then the Aish Partners Conference), I was more than ready for the good old dinner and laundry routine.
Before I had left for California, my daughter asked me,
“Mommy, why do you have to help everyone?”
Honestly, my first reaction was “yikes! Does she resent that I’m so busy lately?” She had come along with me to some of the events I have been involved with, and she seemed to love it, but, still, I made a mental note to check in with her more frequently before I commit to anything new. And, again, I’m not rushing to sign up for anything major any time soon.
But it’s a good question: Why do I have to help everyone? I have always been the type of person to volunteer for things, to hang up fliers, to organize phone drives, to make the phone calls for different charity organizations. I feel like community service is important, that if I have the time and energy, I should give at least some of it to the community.
My mother modeled this service-oriented behavior for me growing up (she still does, she just spent some of her free time painting her church and beautifying the gardens of the condo complex where she lives) and it clearly made a big impression on me.
There are obviously times in life when I can only give to my family. There are times in my life when I can barely give to my family! And so in those times, that’s what I do, and I don’t feel guilty. Taking care of my family is absolutely being a helper. G-d knows when I have the energy for more and when I don’t.
But when my energy level is higher, and I see something that needs to get done outside of the bubble of my home, I don’t like to wait for someone else to do it (though I have, slowly, slowly, learned to delegate or at least ask for help!).
If an opportunity comes to me, I assume that it’s coming to me for a reason. G-d is putting it in front of me because there is potentially something I can give to the world, so even if I’m busy (which, let’s face it, most of us usually are), I have to stop and ask myself,
“Do I have the time to contribute to this? Will it be possible? Can I do this or do I need to pass it along to someone else?”
And, most of the time, the answer is yes. I can usually make time. Because community involvement is something I value a lot. We can usually find time for the things we value.
So I challenge all you readers, what is it that you value? When an opportunity comes your way, is your initial response to consider or reject it?
There are little ways to be a helper. Putting the shopping cart back in the cart corral when you’re done is an easy one. It’s such a painless way to be considerate, to build the muscles of consideration.
Holding the door for the person behind you is also an easy way to just step out of yourself and see that there is a world around you, with people who are having their own lives, their own challenges. When we do something nice for the people around us, it makes the world better.
There’s also the kind of helping that makes people feel good about themselves. I have a neighbor who always has a kind word or observation when I talk to her. It’s amazing. I aspire to that level of interactions with people, to get out of my head and look for the good in the person who is right in front of me.
There’s next-level helping, like making phone calls for organizations, volunteering your time to help a library, a school, a non-profit, things like that. Donating blood, running a food drive, making a concert to raise money for something. Whatever.
I want my children to internalize the value of being a helper, of giving beyond themselves to the community. I also want my children to pick up after themselves and remember to clear their plates from meals. We have a long road ahead of us in that regard. But the best way to teach is to do!
How will you be a helper today?