The High Holidays in Judaism are in full swing. First was Rosh Hashanah, then Yom Kippur, and Sukkot begins this week. Rosh Hashanah – the start of the New Year – began just a couple days before what we otherwise know as October 1st. I took the opportunity (a new year and a time for reflection) to start a little project I’ve been thinking about.
This idea all starts with my family. Even though I tend to think of myself as very “different” from my extended family, each day I seem to learn I am more similar to them than I thought. Apparently my grandmother also rode a camel (in Israel) years ago! But the connections are, obviously, deeper than that. One of the most resonating similarities I continue to see is the desire to give. My parents should receive some sort of award for good-doers. Growing up we were always putting some kind of positive energy into the world – volunteering at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving, choosing where to donate the family tithe, buying goats or bees for families through Heifer international (it took a long time to explain to me as a child that buying bees for someone was a NICE thing), the list goes on. Even today, my mother spends her days working with special needs high school students and her nights working at a group home for adults, and my father runs a charter school system for troubled youth living in residential facilities. I am so grateful to learn from their positive examples.
I am also fortunate enough to have gotten even a small dose of the giving gene. I, too, have spent endless hours making sandwiches at Glide Memorial shelter, sorting food at the SF Food Bank, making safe sex kits for the SF AIDS Foundation, painting murals for the Salvation Army (see photo above!), pulling weeds at the SF Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park…my list goes on and on, too.
I also think it’s important to donate monetarily. Even a few dollars can go a long way at a well-run non-profit. I have my “standard” organizations I donate to – my synagogue, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the library, and so on. But I’ve decided that on the first day of each month for the next year I will donate a minimum of a dollar a day to a different organization each month.
But who likes to give alone? I sent a quick message to one of my very good friends and asked a simple question: “Will you be my partner in good?”
I feel like in this life I’ve got partners in fun and in “crime,” but the older I get I am realizing just how important it is for me to have friends who support my deep lineage of giving - friends who might spend a Sunday afternoon reading to kids, participate in a protest against inadequate pay for Mercado workers, or give a small amount each month to support a non-profit organization.
This month, I chose an organization one of my former students was raising money for. I was so touched by this student’s efforts to save an institution (on the brink of closure), and I’m sure they appreciated the two anonymous donations that went towards their personal fundraising goal.
I know that I have appreciated those who have taken the time to give to my own fundraising appeals, and have seen firsthand the positive ripples those acts of kindness have had in my life. This new year, I am going to try to keep giving at the forefront of my intentions and actions. And I’m glad I have my partner in good along for the journey.