Tag Archives: good deeds

My Pandemic Mitzvot Keep Me Optimistic

18 Mar

I already wrote about the libraries closing and my decision to giveaway some of the thousands of books I am not taking to our new, downsized home. But in the few days since I wrote that blog so much more has happened. Yesterday all schools were asked to stay closed until April 6. Then today, the governor ordered that schools shut their doors for the rest of the school year.

That is unbelievable and truly an unexpected event.

I work at a school. A small, private school for students who do not do well in a traditional setting. This order to close school leaves us all gobstruck and flabbergasted. But with all the schools and libraries closed, books are not only an important release from stress, but also an important learning tool. Where will the children get books to read if the libraries, schools and stores are closed? So I believe my decision to share books is more important than ever.

The requests are coming in. Mystery, romance, funny novels, memoirs, thrillers, fantasy, children’s books for all ages. But I find myself not just saying yes and just handing them a book, I find myself searching through my books to find something that fits the person who requested a book.

Books to give away on my front porch.

I give each person between two and five books. If I have a series, I give them all the books I own in that series. I also offer options to some people, as I have several books I think they might like. I let each person make the final decision. No feelings hurt. But so far, everyone seems to like the books they took from my front porch.

My pandemic mitzvah (good deed) decision is bringing me joy! I think I am, or should have been, a librarian. Trying to match books to people elicits a smile in my brain. A little click occurs and I think, ‘Eureka, perfect fit!’

Eight people have requested books so far. I hope that many more do so. I would be glad to give everyone I know a bit of joy through the gift of a book. But I can only help out those who live within my community.

I think getting the books make them happy as well. I leave them in bags on my front porch. People come by and take the bag labeled for them. Since we are keeping socially distant, I don’t go outside to greet them. But a couple have knocked on the door and given me a smile and a wave and a thank you through the glass.

Some friends who have not requested books have noted what a great idea this is. And a kindness. Kindness goes two ways. People need books. It brings them relief from stress and escape from situations. I get joy by finding good homes for my books. It is so nice to know that another reader will open the pages and be transferred from the somewhat harsh reality of a Coronavirus pandemic, into someone’s words and imagination.

But books are not my only pandemic mitzvot. I am calling house bound people. I am sending notes to the people I usually visit in an elder care facility. I am trying to be upbeat and positive. Sometimes I fail at that, but I am trying. And most of all, I am trying to take care of my husband and myself. We are continuing our exercise, we are eating healthy and I hope we are maintaining our spirits.

I think that by doing something positive I can take a bit of stress out of my life and the lives of those around me. So remember, even if you cannot see your friends, you can call. Even if you cannot go to movies or libraries or concerts, there are many ways to listen to music or read. Take a walk outside. Call someone at home to brighten their day. Doing a mitzvah during the pandemic is my choice to keep optimistic.

Finding Good In Seattle

19 Nov

When I travel I look for positive experiences. Besides the regular sites, I like to visit places to reflect my heritage and my desire to do good. So in Seattle, I was delighted to learn that two of the experiences selected by the group I was with were devoted to good deeds.

The Foundations aims

An interactive map.

A safe way to transport vaccines.

First was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center. We had a docent speak with us and describe the Center, which explains and shows the philosophy and collaborations of the Foundation. In reality, you do not need a docent, the Discovery Center is quite user friendly and has many interactive activities that will intrigue adults and older children as well.

A poster I made in one activity.

Besides the regular exhibits, theater and activities, when I went there was a large exhibit on inventions designed to help people in locations far from technology. My two favorites were ways to clean water and really cool eyeglasses. As a myopic person, I understand the need to see clearly!

There is a big push from the foundation for clean water, better use of toilets and cleaning fecal matter, and vaccines. As many, I am glad the Foundation is doing all it can to save lives. But I must admit I did ask if they were doing anything to have more food and population control. Because saving all these lives in areas of Africa with famine and drought, were they adding to the problem if they did not also help create food and find ways for more water to get to these drought ravaged places. I will admit the docent did not have a good answer for me. But it was obvious it was a question the foundation was aware to be a concern.

Another big push is education, especially of women and girls. In fact they want to improve the quality of life for women. In all, I learned much about the areas of the world where people suffer from poverty, even in the USA.

And that leads to my second Seattle experience. For our annual luncheon we went to Fare Start Restaurant located at 700 Virginia in downtown Seattle. What a great meal and great program.

Learning about Fare Start before we eat. And the wall of corporate sponsors.

Fare Start has helped people in property get training in the restaurant business. They have helped people for over 25 years. They not only learn the business skills for food services, but also life skills. There are 16 week job trading programs for adults, as well as an eight-week program for youth aged 16-21. Another program helps homeless youths aged 16-24.

During the week the restaurant is open to the public. While in weekends it does private catering events like ours. I was so happy our catering dollars went to help this wonderful program.

Seattle has much to offer. This is my third trip here. Every time I find new and interesting experiences. One little happy note for me, in Seattle Restaurants where you clear your own plate, there are three cans: recycling, trash, compost!

In This Time of Asking Forgiveness, I Am Donating to Help Hurricane Survivors

28 Sep


We were in San Juan, Puerto Rico in June.  A lovely island for a day of sight seeing as we cruised the Caribbean.  We took a bus to the Fort in San Juan, and then a walking tour from the Fort back to the ship.   We passed beautiful flowering trees and plants, lush gardens, We toured the Fort that overlooks the ocean and once protected the island from invaders.  We looked down the coast to see the lovely beaches.


But Hurricane Maria has devasted the island.   So many millions without food, water, housing.  Searching for a way off the island, tourists who live elsewhere are stuck, stranded away from their home.  While those whose home is Puerto Rica are afraid of the future.  When where the power grid be repaired, when will the water and the food be available again. When will the roads be fixed.  When will medical care and schools be able to return to normal.


Puerto Rico is one of many islands that faced destruction in the way of Hurricane Irma and Maria, while Florida and Texas also suffered horrors during to hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey and Irma impacted these areas.  Connected to other states and cities,  Florida and Texas are fortunate in that help can come more quickly for these impacted areas, where as the islands of the Caribbean are isolated.

Cruise ships are cancelling vacation cruises in order to help evacuate the islands and bring supplies.  But in reality, there is no tourism or vacation in some sections of the Caribbean now as the destruction of the islands’ infrastructures make tourism impossible.

I cannot go there to help.  But I can donate. I can provide tzedakah to those in need. I chose the “oneamericanappeal.org” that was endorsed by and set up by our five former presidents: Bush, Bush, Carter, Clinton and Obama: Republicans and Democrats coming together to help our citizens in need.

I know that not everyone can help financially.  But those of us who can, must.   The island of Puerto Rico will never be the same.  But perhaps it can even be better as the power grid is rebuilt and the water supply fixed…as it will be updated and modernized. The Virgin Island of St. Thomas was also devastated.  These islands are our responsibility.  The citizens of these islands are citizens of the United States.

It has been a difficult time for many.  Fires in the west and northwest are causing destruction and health issues.  The many hurricanes have devasted areas with their high winds and flooding rains. I also sent sent a donation to help with these disasters as well through the Jewish Federation.

With this season of asking for forgiveness, the time between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, I think that doing good for others ,  tzedakah and gemilut Chasadim, shows my commitment to tikkun olam.  As I ask forgiveness for all that I might have done to hurt others during the year, I send donations to help those in need. 

A Wonderful Gift At Crystal Bridges

20 Jun

With so much focus on people acting in mean and nasty ways, I think it is important to focus on people who do unexpected nice actions.   My friend and I were the recipients of one such wonderful gift.

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Outside Chihuly Exhibit 

This past weekend I went to Bentonville, Arkansas, to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Crystal Bridges Museum.  I love Chihuly’s art and was looking forward to seeing both the inside and outside installations.   My friend was kind enough to buy our tickets in advance, so that we had no problems getting in and seeing this amazing sampling of his work. (See link below for more on Chihuly.)

While we were walking outside, I saw the Frank Lloyd Wright House that had recently been moved and renovated on the museum’s grounds. The Bachman Wilson House is a wonderful example of his style. We walked up to the house, even though there were no longer tickets available for the day, hoping to at least see the outside.

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Kiosk with info about the house… And the couple who gave us the tickets!!! How lucky that I had unknowingly taken their photo.

On the way to the house is a small kiosk with information about Wright and his more famous structures. We spoke to a couple who were also reading the information. And had a lovely conversation about Wright. Then we all walked up to the house.

When we got there, we asked the attendant if we could at least walk around the house even though we did not have tickets to enter. She said, “Of Course.” So we went on our way.

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Frank Lloyd Wright house.  No photos are allowed inside.

A few minutes later she called us back. The couple we had met, had been to the house when it first opened, and gave us their tickets!!! They wanted us to be able to see the inside as well. My friend started to cry, she was so happy.

At first, we declined, we did not want to disrupt their visit. But they insisted. I turned to the attendant and said, “That is so nice.” She agreed and said to them, “Why don’t you go into the house as well.” So they had the opportunity to see the house as well, but without the headsets to hear the history of the house. Those they insisted that we use.

Visiting Bentonville and the Crystal Bridges Museum is well worth the trip south.   But the added bonus is meeting such lovely people. Seeing this house from both the outside and the inside made such an impression.

We thanked them several times that day….as we crossed their path in the museum. It was such a wonderful gift!

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/chihuly-stunning/

Major Recycling Provides a Wonderful Feeling

18 Oct

Yesterday my husband and I were on a mission. I had read that the community was holding a major recycling event , the Recycling Extravaganza,” close to our home. This was not for the regular items that we recycle each week. Or for the glass that I take monthly to the recycling center near our home. No this was for electronics, paper that needed to be shredded, household items, fabric and home building items.

Phones recycled at a cousins's company in Israel.

Phones recycled at a cousins’s company in Israel.

I am a major recycler.  I hate when people throw things away needlessly.  In my world of doing good, recycling is one of the most important to keep the world clean and preserve resources. We even have cousins who own a recycling company in Israel!  It is one of the small things we all can do to practice Tikun Olam, repairing the world.  For me recycling is a form of ‘tzedakah,’ rightousness.

I was ready. I have been saving electronics for months. I had two old televisions, VHS players, old recorders and other sundry electronics ready to go. I also had the pedestal sink that was removed from a half bath during a remodeling.

I figured I had close to 90 pounds of items to go! And that was important because whenever they talk about recycling, the newspaper always says how many pounds was collected. We were doing our little part to help.

So first we loaded my little C-Max Hybrid with all the electronics and drove the three miles to the parking lot of a local business.   We just had to follow the signs and the cars. Soon we were directed by a volunteer to the right to join in a long line that led to the electronics recycling.ALl of these items will be recycled by Surplus Exchange. Every few minutes the line moved forward as four cars at a time were emptied by volunteers.

It made me so happy to see so many teens participating and helping to empty the cars. What a great service project to do on a weekend! You might hear about teens getting in trouble, but how often do you hear about teens doing community service! This added to my feeling of wellness.  Teens doing good deeds,  gemulat chasidim.

Within minutes our car was emptied. My husband just stood on the side and watched. He did not have to do anything. The teens were like busy carpenter ants just scurrying around and taking out the items from our car and the other cars lined up near us.

We then joined the line of cars leaving the parking lot.

Our drive home was fun. I said, “I feel as if the house is lighter with all that gone!” My husband was more excited about emptying out the garage.

“We need to go back with the sink. It just takes up too much room in the garage,” he said.

Of course we were going back! Recycling was my mission for the day.

He loaded the two heavy sink pieces into the trunk of my car. We drove back to the parking lot. This time we were directed to go left.

“They will be so happy to see you,” the woman directing traffic told us!

There was not a long line leading to the recycling trucks that took the fabric, household goods and other items. But we were soon stopped. A car in front of us was filled with 2 by 4s that needed to be emptied. We were two trucks away from the truck that was used for collecting our item.

Two young men who were working another truck came to help my husband. (I think the grey hair helped.) They removed the two heavy parts of the sink and carried them over to the ReStore truck. We were done! Recycling completed!

Mission accomplished. Our house was lighter. Our items were not in a land- fill but rather would be used by others or taken apart and recycled.

Tikun Olam, repair the world. I might not be able to control all the world’s crisis, but I can no my little part to keep the world a cleaner place. Recycling really does give me a wonderful feeling.

Saving the Monarch Butterflies

24 Aug

Excitement rules our home.   Our milkweed plantings were successful. We have monarch butterfly caterpillars munching on the leaves. And thousands of eggs deposited among our milkweeds. We are doing our part to save the Monarch butterflies.

We live in the path of the great Monarch migration. Each year millions of butterflies come through Kansas. When we see them, we celebrate. Our children, when they were young, would have such joy pointing to them and running to see the butterflies on our flowers.

Our concern started because we noticed fewer and fewer butterflies making their way through our property.   And then we watched a documentary on NOVA, “Journey of the Butterflies,” about the migration of the butterflies and how their natural habitat is diminishing. What could we do?

The docent at the Butterfly Farm in St. Maarten showing us a giant milkweed and a Monarch butterfly caterpillar. This got us started!

The docent at the Butterfly Farm in St. Maarten showing us a giant milkweed and a Monarch butterfly caterpillar. This got us started!

Then we went to a butterfly farm and conservation center on St. Maarten in the Caribbean. The tour guide/docent was very clear in his message. “PLANT Milkweed. This could save the butterflies.”

That spring when we returned home, we had a mission. Years ago we had milkweed growing. And we pulled it all out. Now we knew that was a wrong decision. We needed milkweed.

It was too late to start from seed. But we learned that the University of Kansas was selling milkweed in Lawrence. So I messaged my nephew, who was in school there, to please buy us some milkweed plants.

He arrived the next day with five plants, one of each variety being sold at the event to save the butterflies.

Planting the milkweed we got from the University of Kansas sale in 2014.

Planting the milkweed we got from the University of Kansas sale in 2014.

My husband cheerfully and carefully planted them.   But we made one error. We forgot to tell the gardener who weeded our gardens for us. A few days later we came home, and I said, “Oh, Donny must have been here.” My husband went running to the front. And then he started yelling, “He pulled out my milkweed. It is all gone!!!”

But it wasn’t all gone. There was still one plant. But it was not enough. We never had any caterpillars last year.

This year was different. My husband ordered 2,500 seeds on line. Yes, I said 2,500 milkweed seeds of five different varieties. I agree, a little over kill. I bought him seedling planters with 100 individual biodegradable cups. He planted over 200 seeds. And he waited. Soon they were sprouting.

100s of milkweed seedlings watched over by our kitten.

100s of milkweed seedlings watched over by our kitten.

First we kept them on our kitchen table in the sunlight. But our kitten was a bit too interested in them. So we moved them to a bright spot where the kitten could not get to them.

Over 100 seedlings survived. My husband pulled some out so that there was only one plant in each cup.   And eventually he had 50 good plants to put into the ground. It was not easy to keep them alive. The animals loved to eat them, especially the bunnies. And the squirrels kept digging them up. He put the plants in our flower boxes with wire screens above them.   Slowly he planted the surviving milkweed in the ground. He put up wire screens around his milkweed plantsto keep them safe.

He also gave seeds away to our neighbors so they also could plant milkweed. His aim was sincere. Everyone should plant milkweed!

Slowly the plants grew all summer. They did not flower, something was eating the flowers. And now the mature plants started to look badly. Something was eating his milkweed.

He went out to investigate. And came back with a big smile on his face.

Two of the four Monarch butterfly caterpillars eating our milkweed. Seen the wire screening we used to protect them in the background.

Two of the four Monarch butterfly caterpillars eating our milkweed. Seen the wire screening we used to protect them in the background.

Four caterpillars were eating the largest of our milkweed. We had done it! We had done a wonderful good deed! We had provided a home for the Monarch butterflies. Excitement and joy!

I expect next year we will have many more surviving milkweed plants and many more caterpillars because now we are experienced in the ways of saving the Monarch butterfly!

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/journey-butterflies

http://www.journeynorth.org/

Amazed Where I Found Anti-Semitism in Europe

13 Jul

Our European adventure had the added delight that our daughter and her fiancé came with us for the cruise section of the trip. They live in Israel, so we do not see them very often. In fact we were looking forward to getting to know our future son in law a bit better.

It was wonderful, we would tour with them in the morning and sometimes have lunch in whatever port we were in, but when we returned to the ship each couple was on their own till dinner time.

We were so happy to see their joy. And to see what a very nice young man she chose to marry.

On these tours we met many different people. And since we chose to do many walking tours, there was time to talk and visit. It was interesting and at times enlightening.

I have to be honest, I was concerned about going to Europe, especially France, with all the news about anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activities. Our cruise was originally going to Tunisia, but that port was cancelled. We would have been there the day before the attack on the beach that left 38 dead. And the night before we entered St. Tropez, there was a vicious attack that stunned France as a lone terrorist tried to blow up a factory, but first he killed and beheaded his boss.

So there was some stress on my part as to be aware of what was happening around us. But I still was stunned by where the quiet anti-Semitism actually appeared.

We were touring around Barcelona on a walking tour we booked through our cruise. As we walked through the Gothic town, the old town, a young girl and her mother (from the USA and on our cruise) started a conversation with my daughter and her fiancé. The conversation seemed animated.   So I stepped back to listen.

I was drawn into the conversation, as the teen girl, who had just graduated high school, asked some of her questions.   This girl from a small town in Georgia had never actually spoken to or met Jewish people before. And she had lots of questions, as did her mother.

I tried to be polite. But it got a little difficult after I realized the girl had told my daughter and her fiancé that they were such nice people, and she felt really badly knowing that they were going to Hell since they did not believe in Jesus.

What?!? Her Mom asked me the same question, but about Jewish beliefs. Don’t we think people who don’t believe what we believe will go to Hell?

“NO!” I told her. We believe that as long as people, Jewish or non-Jewish, acted in a good way, did good deeds and followed ethical standards, there was no Hell. Believing in Jesus in our mind had nothing to do with being a good person. And being a good person was the most important.

We told them about the seven Noahide laws that all people have to follow. And as long as a non-Jew followed these laws, they were good. For example you cannot murder or steal.   You cannot eat the flesh of a living creature. You cannot have idolatry.

And then I think we blew her away when we told her that many orthodox Jews believed that Christianity was pagan because they kept graven images of Christ. And seem to worship him. We discussed the Greek influence on Christianity and how this might have made ancient Christians believe that Jesus was the actual son of God. Because in Judaism, this belief is impossible, God has no physical form. We all have the spark of God inside of us, but there is no way we could be the actual child of God. Impossible.

And I pointed out all the “patron saints” we had seen in some of the cathedrals…. actually dead bodies kept in glass coffins. These bodies were dressed and had masks over their faces. And in each place we were told that on their saint day, the coffins were taken down from their alters, carried through town and then placed in the center of the church for all to pay homage to these patron saints.

This is very far from a Jewish version of “have no other God before me.”

The mother stopped trying to tell me about Hell and belief in Jesus. She slowly walked away from me. Perhaps she realized I was not going to change my mind and have an epiphany and believe in Jesus.  Perhaps I had been a bit harsh, but I really do not like to be told I am going to Hell because I don’t believe in Jesus.

So here I was so afraid of anti-Semitism in Europe, when in reality the only anti-Semitism I faced was from other Americans from a small town in Georgia. That was eye opening and somewhat disheartening.

But then I am from Kansas. And just 17 months ago an anti-Semite attacked the Jewish Community in an effort to kill Jews. He instead killed three Christians. If some one is going to Hell it is him and all those who practice hatred.