Tamar, that awesome executive editor of ours, is full of good ideas. So for this Yom Tov season she challenged us (me and all our blogging friends) to “Spread the Joy.” She wants us to think of some food-related charitable cause, a way to give back to family, friends and community in the medium we understand best: food.
Such a great idea. Wish I could say it was mine.
And since this is the season for confessions (for me, it’s always the season), I’ve got to admit that my account at the chessed bank has run pretty low. (Chessed = an act of a kindness = doing something to benefit someone else =lending a helping hand.)
I’ve got lots of good excuses – I mean reasons – for why giving back sorta fell through the cracks. I mean, it’s so hard to keep up with everything on the professional front, and on the personal front, and on the kitchen front, and on the kid front. I’ve got more fronts than a wartime army. So maybe I just got too wrapped up in all that, and well, um, never got around to actually thinking about other people and their challenges.
Well, wouldn’t you know that right after Tamar commanded “Spread the Joy!” my partner in all things – Hubby – said “I think we should start a chessed project; it important for the kids to see their parents doing chessed.” (Are Hubby and Tamar in cahoots, or is it that obvious that I have done nothing for humanity lately?)
Now recently Hubby has decided to donate his time to a local charity here in Beit Shemesh called Lema'an Achai. They have a tremendous reputation for helping hundreds of families through financial crises and then enabling them to regain their financial independence. As it happens, Hubby is a professional financial advisor, so he will be helping by counseling people about their financial planning based on their real actual budget. (The one person he can’t help is his own wife. I’m beyond help. I see a clear ironic, cosmic humor in that a financial planner is married to the ultimate financial non-planner. Hubby doesn’t think it’s funny.)
Anyway, when he was at Lema'an Achai, he noticed that their food donation pantry was running low. In addition to initial financial assistance, they also give their recipients non-perishable shelf-stable food items based on need. But there’s never quite enough to go around. So he suggested we start a monthly Rosh Chodesh canned food drive at the kids’ school. He volunteered to run it for the boys’ school if I would run it for the girls. I loved the idea. And I was truly inspired and grateful that I married a man who cares about things like this, but I was also a little afraid of managing yet another project. “I know you’re busy,” he said, “but we can do this together.”
Not sure if I forgot about it 5 minutes later or 5 days later, but when we received an email from the girls’ school about a meeting for all those willing to volunteer for the parents association, Hubby gently reminded me that I should put it on my calendar. He even volunteered to put all the kids to bed that night so I could go. (In fact he does that quite often, and is quite good at it!) The email said “all ideas were welcome” and he reminded me to bring up our idea. “What idea?”
“The monthly food drive.”
“Oh yeah, ok, that idea.”
Funny thing. Speaking up at the PTA meeting tied my tongue in knots. My face turned purple. I could barely get the words out. But I did it! When they asked for suggestions, I raised my hand and talked about how I think chessed is important and we should implement a monthly project; and I’m volunteering to do a food drive for Lema'an Achai. I’ll even do the weekly flyers and come to collect the donations myself. They all nodded, quite pleased with the idea, because Lema'an Achai is so well respected, and after all, I was volunteering to set this thing in motion and do the follow-up. A lovely lady named Samantha agreed to run it with me, and well… I came home all excited. Hubby was all smiles and coaxed, “tell me, tell me everything.”
“Everyone loved MY idea,” I told him.
(I do that to him just to get him. All of HIS ideas that I have claimed as MINE are way too hard to count. Did I ever tell you it was HIS idea to write a cookbook in the first place?)
So does it matter who actually thought of it first? I love this chance to run a food drive at my girls’ school and have them participate with me, getting all their friends involved in such a meaningful effort. You know my philosophy: food is the great and universal equalizer, able to draw people from all backgrounds and walks of life together around a table. It brings together community, family, the past, present and future. But what of those who have little food, for whom every meal is meager? How can we enjoy our food, knowing that they do not have what they need? I want my children, and all children, to think about that. I want them to know that we have a responsibility toward other people. So we’ll do our little part here; bringing food to Lema'an Achai, entrusting them to distribute to those in need in our community.
I think Tamar will be happy with this example. But there are so many more ways to “Spread the Joy” in the coming year.
What can you do in your community? Please share with us any projects in which you are involved, or any that inspire you. Tell us, even if you feel it to be a pipe dream, share it in the comments – writing about it can be a first step in actualizing your charitable dreams. And maybe someone reading your idea will think of a way to implement it!
When we pray sincerely for the needs of others, we can bring that same blessing upon ourselves. Let’s do the same with our actions: bring food to those in need, or do whatever aspect of chessed speaks to you. And in that merit, as my grandmother a”h would say, “we should never know from it.”