Tag Archives: helping others

Do More of What Makes You Feel Happy: Or Why I Want to be a Spiritual Care Volunteer

16 Jan

For the past two years I have been trying to find a different kind of volunteer role.  I have served on boards and planned events; I have shopped for gifts and supplies; I have written and stuffed letters; I have organized and directed. But I wanted something that was more one-on-one, where I could actually help someone. Something that would give me an important obligation and destination once I totally retired. Something that had meaning.  It is important to me to give back, to do tzedekah, to make a conscious, ethical commitment to do good.

Then I listened to a radio podcast that featured my sister-in-law.  In it she said something that resonated with me:  Do More of What Makes You Feel Happy!

I realized that something that makes me feel happy is making others feel happy.  Many times, when I am with someone not feeling well, or feeling blue, I just want to help them laugh before we leave each other.  I learned years ago that laughter really makes people feel better. The saying, “Turn that frown upside down and smile,” sticks in my mind.  I decided I needed to find a volunteer role that would help people feel emotionally better.

Several years ago, I participated in a two-day training program put on by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and our local Jewish Federation called, Wise Aging. We were taught how to facilitate a program for people who were in a transitional stage of life, from 50s to late 70s. We learned the skill of mindful listening. We learned about mindfulness and meditation along with dealing with transitions.

I really enjoyed teaching classes with my co-leader on the transition from thinking about the aging process to living in the aging process and how to make it a most positive experience.  But we are not doing as many workshops. I needed something else that might use the skills I learned from this workshop.

Then life happened.  Someone I know for years was in a rehab facility.  I went to visit her and saw what my visit meant, even though we were not close friends.  Then a good friend of mine was in the hospital and then rehab for months.  I started visiting her once a week when I was in town.  She loved the visits.  Even when her husband came, they wanted me to stay. Having outside company was comforting and helped them passed the time.  Besides making them happier for the company, it made me happier because I know my presence helped them.

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The booklet the volunteer dropped off.

One day when I was there, a man stopped by and gave her a booklet.  He was a spiritual care volunteer.  Since she had company he dropped off the booklet and said he would be back later.  Hummm the wheels in my brain already started to turn.

I remembered back to when my parents were sick.   I would fly to NJ every five weeks and spend a week there.  Many times, I was just going to the hospital every day.  My siblings wondered how I could sit in the hospital or nursing home all day long. They could not do it.  But it did not bother me.  I also remember the volunteers who came from the local synagogue to visit the hospitalized.  I had several nice conversations with them.  I remember thinking what a great way to do a mitzvah.

I remembered back to when I was a teenager and worked as a candy striper in a local hospital.  I had one incident that changed my desire to be a nurse, but I always liked helping others.  (See blog link below.)

Recently I was in Israel when my daughter had surgery. I spent several days in the hospital. Many times, my daughter’s roommate did not have someone there when I was there, so I helped her as well.  It made sense to me.  It is ‘gemulat hasidim,’a deed of loving kindness to help the sick.

My mind started ruminating over a specific volunteer opportunity: visiting the sick, or in our community Spiritual Care Volunteer.

I realized that this might be the best fit for me.  I like people.  I like to talk to people.  Sick people do not scare me.  I think some people are afraid to be around someone either old, or just someone who is sick.  It does not upset me.  The more I thought about it, the more considering volunteering as a spiritual care volunteer seemed right for me.

And then there were the ‘signs’!

One day while visiting my friend, the local rabbi in charge of Jewish Family Services’ Chaplaincy Program appeared to visit her as well.  I saw this as a sign.  The spiritual care volunteers are part of his program. I do not see him that often, and here I was thinking about calling him to volunteer when he showed up.  So right then, I told him, I want to do this.  It has been on my mind ever since. But. I did not follow up, I had much going on.

I went to Israel to be with my daughter.  When I come back from Israel. Rabbi Rudnick emailed me to comment on a blog I wrote about being in a hospital in Israel.  I took this as my second sign that I am really meant to be a spiritual care volunteer. I, in turn, emailed him and I reminded him that I wanted to participate in this program.  He put me in touch with another person at his agency to get more information.

My third sign is that the 12-hour training, which is to begin soon, is actually on days that I can attend!  That is amazing to me.  It really must be a sign that this is the right role for me.

I have filled out the paperwork, had my interview, had my rabbi write a letter of recommendation.  I am all set.  Next week I begin my training.  I have made a one-year commitment to this program.

I hope that I can give comfort to those that need comfort; listen to those who need to be heard; pray with those who need prayer; and cheer up those who need cheering.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/04/16/my-time-as-a-candy-striper/

Several Days At a Hospital Gives Me Hope For Israel

20 Dec

Sitting in a hospital in Holon has been a most eye-opening experience. The hospital sits on the border of Holon, Tel Aviv and Yafo serving an area mixed with Jewish and Muslim and Christian citizens. And it illustrates what I love about Israel.

I came to Israel because my daughter needed surgery. They day of her scheduled surgery we arrived at 6:25 am. After all the intake she was shown to her room where she would wait for surgery. Her roommate was a Muslim woman who had acute appendicitis and also needed surgery, ‘K’.

We were now linked together. They went down to surgery about the same time and returned to their room around the same time: five hours after we first went down. While we waited we sat in an area with many others: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim parents, children, spouses and friends waiting for their loved ones to emerge.

I do speak some Hebrew, but in my mother anxiety, my Hebrew left me and I mainly spoke English. Of course my daughter’s husband speaks Hebrew. But it really did not matter. Most of the nurses and aides could quickly move from Hebrew to Arabic to English and at times a Russian and Yiddish.

As patients were wheeled into the surgery area a barrage of languages wished them luck. And as families were reunited after surgery, those remaining behind sent prayers for speedy recovery to all no matter the religion; we were united in our need to comfort each other in our time of stress and anxiety.

When a 13-year-old boy was left to wait alone as his father had surgery, we banded together to speak to him and keep him calm till his much older brother arrived. It was K’s husband who told him what to tell his brother after the doctor came out, because the boy’s happy tears rendered him unable to speak. When his phone’s battery died, my son-in-law gave him our charger so he could call his brother again.

We became a team. When the nurse came in and started to speak to me in Hebrew, I responded in Hebrew, “more slowly please”. While K’s husband told the nurse to speak to me in English. When he left to walk his two young children out along with his sister, I held his wife’s head and cleaned her face after she vomited. She was young enough to be my daughter too.

At first, before the surgery, K’s husband put her Hijab over her hair when we were in the room. But after the surgery he did not bother. We were in this together. Only when visitors came did she put her Hijab on.

Later that evening, when my daughter started to vomit, I grabbed the garbage pail for her, while my son-in-law brought in another trash can. Then K’s mother began to laugh, the idea of the two of them vomiting simultaneously was just too much. I started to laugh as well. My son-in-law was a bit confused as to why we were laughing. But it was fine. We were in close quarters as the hospital was full, and we were put together in a single room.

When the nurse came, to check my daughter, we two mothers were asked to leave for a few minutes. We stood outside together and spoke about our daughters. We were together in wishing both a speedy recovery. It did not matter our language or religion, we were just moms whose daughters just had surgery.

Actually I really enjoyed listening to all the conversations, not to the words, but to the switching in one sentence from Arabic to Hebrew to English. The cadence of the melody changes with each language like a symphony of sound. At times I would be confused as to what language I was hearing, as the speakers would switch so fluently from one to another.

My daughter told me that Arabic spoken in Yafo is filled with Hebrew expressions.

Late that evening, after I had spent over 15 hours at the hospital, my son-in-law and I went back home. K’s husband spent the night. In the morning we found out that my daughter had been sick and he helped her after she threw up.

I felt terrible that I was not there. That she had not told us to return. Her answer when we asked was the room was way too small for us all to be there. Also in the morning before we came, it was K who told the nurse who came to check on her that my daughter had been sick during the night; that she needed to be checked as well.

That morning I purchased tulips for both of them because they were going to have to spend another night in the hospital. Yes being sick at night landed both of them another night in the hospital.

My daughter and K are now home. Their room is empty and being readied for the next patient.

In all I spent parts of four days at Wolfson Medical Center. While at the hospital I felt a sense of companionship. People working together to help everyone else. I get so sick of hearing about hatred and bigotry and stereotypes. At Wolfson we are one people. That is the Israel I love.

I am aware of what is happening elsewhere in Israel. At the borders and in the West Bank. But when you are at the hospital you know that the everyday people can live together and wish each other well.

Doctors, nurses, aides; patients and families; Jewish, Muslim, Christian; all together in one purpose: to help everyone feel better. At least that is the impression I had at Wolfson. That feeling is what gives me hope for Israel.

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 Honor of Our Children: Working For Safer Gun Laws Is My Personal Plan For Respecting Life

24 Feb

February 27 would have been my Mom’s birthday.  I have thinking about her so much since the latest school shooting. My Mom taught school for 30 years. Most of the time she taught fourth grade. There are some families for whom she taught multiple generations of children.

I also work in a school. It focuses on helping students who do not learn well in a traditional school setting. We have children who have anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD, extremely brilliant children, bullied children, those on the autism spectrum, gay children, transgender children, depressed children, all special, all worthy and all needing an extra boost.  And I wonder how we will continue to keep all children safe from the outrageous behavior coming from the adults in our country.

I have been wondering what my Mom would think of all this gun violence and what she would do if she was still alive. Our family nickname for my Mom was ‘Norma Rae.’ This was based on the Sally Field character in the movie of the same name. Norma Rae had enough at her job and becomes a labor activist. She makes a difference.

My Mom might not have been a labor activist, but she never stayed quiet if she saw a wrong. She also made a difference. She taught me to speak up and speak out!  Maybe it is because she knew the tragedy of mass murder, since two of her grandparents and many family members were murdered in the Shoah. Or maybe it was because she learned from example. Her parents were strong willed people who came to the USA on their own in the 1920s with nothing, and built a business, a life and a family.

I believe my Mom would not have remained silent right now. So to those who have asked me who I am working for politically. I am not working for anyone. Rather I am working for every child who goes to school. I will keep calling my legislators. I will keep supporting organizations that combat gun violence. I will keep posting about topics that upset me, that I think are wrong. And I will not remain silent.

Dante wrote in his famous poem, “The Infernal,” that the hottest place in hell is for those who remain silent in times of moral crisis.  I will not remain silent. I feel my Mom with me and I feel her fire and passion for her students.

We really need to keep our children safe and let them know they are loved, special, unique and worthy.  How do we do that?

First there are about 5,000,000 members of the NRA. But there are over 325,000,000 citizens of the USA! Easy to see that 320,000,000 Do Not belong to the NRA. The NRA uses its money to buy our legislators by lobbying and giving them so much money for their campaigns.

We, the people, need to STOP this NOW!

1. Do not buy from companies that support the NRA. A boycott has started, and I will support it.

2. Give money to legislators who promise to fight for safe gun laws and the banning of assault weapons and items that boost these weapons to more dangerous levels.  I plan to continue to do this.

3. Let us work to get a ban on ammunition used in these killing guns.

4. Do Not vote for elected officials on any level of government who is financially indebted to the NRA.

5. Reject the NRA’s messages of hatred and divisiveness. I do not dislike people who own guns. I just dislike certain types of guns.

6. We have to put our money where our heart is and use it effectively. I am for a buy back of all assault weapons. I understand they cost about $600. I will give $1800 to buy back three. This amount calls out to me because 18 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word chai, life. I would give a hundred times life to save one life.

7. Let us insist they tighten the laws surrounding gun sales and the raffling off of guns as fundraisers. People should not be allowed to buy guns at gun shows and privately without background checks.

8. Tighten the laws surrounding background checks. We see they are failing us right now.

9. Increase funding for mental health care. Our government is supporting a cut to health care for all. The only industrialized nation that dies not provide health care for its citizens!  Let us work to change this.

10.  Keep calling and writing my elected officials to express my views on gun control laws and health care laws.

11. Support an organization that works to counter gun violence, like Grandparents Against Gun Violence, https://moksgagv.org, Gabby Giffords group Americans For Responsible Solutions https://giffords.org, Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence http://www.bradycampaign.org.

12. Be KIND!  There is too much divisiveness and hateful speech right now.  Use your words for good.

I will be wearing this pin that says Chai to remind myself to work for life.

Working for safer gun laws is my personal plan to respect life.

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. 

Trouble with the Office: An American Bialystoker Story

21 Mar

The following is a report my Great Grandfather, Louis Goldman, made in a 1937 issue of the Bialystoker Stimme. It explains the reason why the Bialystoker Bikur Cholim decided that the organization needed its own offices. It seems asking for help from the community was just not working out. It gives the history of the decision to rent its own office. I think this might have be the precursor of the Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which was built over two years in 1929-1931.

Here is his article, as translated by my friend Blumah and edited a bit by me for clarity.

“The Bialystoker landsman in that time mostly lived in the East side (of New York City). The Bikur Cholim decided to put in that neighborhood a place for the sick people to receive help without difficulty. So they would be close to their neighborhood.

They arranged for a doctor and arranged for a pharmacist to get them medicine.

It was decided to give to the poor sick people a free pass to see the doctor and also pay for the medicine.

A certain landsman, who had a hot dog /salami store on Essex Street, gave his store for the sick people to come to receive these passes and papers. This became the office where they could get the papers. But there was a problem: The store keeper would give out these free passes like a prize to his own customers who would buy meat from him. (This was not what was intended so,) It was decided to rent a place somewhere else.

Next they found a butcher store from one of the landsman, Philip T. However there was not very convenient for several reasons.

They moved the office again to a new place. To “Fisher” who had a printing shop on Clinton Street. But Fisher started asking every month for new ‘additions’. (Not sure if he wanted more money or what he is wanting. Probably more money.)

So the Bikur Cholim decided once and for all to rent a permanent office for themselves. It was decided that this office could also act as a club for the active members. Also there would always be a secretary who would be paid and who would take care all of the cases for the Bikur Cholim.”

As my great grandfather, or the editor of the Bialystoker Stimme, entitled the article, “Trouble with the Office,” I think that was a fine assessment.  Personally I loved how the store owner gave out free medical passes to his customers.  One way to build a clientele, even though it was not ‘kosher.’  I know that they were trying their best to help their landsmen in need, without using the money needlessly.  Building an office might have seemed that way to them.  But eventually, having a paid secretary made more sense.

The history of the Bialystoker Home For the Aged and the Bialysotker landsmanshaft, immigrant organization, can be found in the NY Landmarks Preservation Commission Report of May 21, 2012. See link below:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/2529.pdf

The part of this story that impacts my great grandfather’s article, is this small section from the report:

“In its first year of existence the Bialystoker Center was located in an old building at 228 East Broadway just few houses down from the basement location of the Bikur Cholim. In 1922-23 it replaced the aging structure with a new five-story headquarters, which included office space not just for its own use but also provided meeting rooms for affiliated associations.”

So I assume the offices that my great grandfather is writing about was this office on 228 East Broadway. Eventually, definitely by 1937 when his article was written, the Bikur Cholim offices were included in the beautiful building that was finished in 1931.

As I have said in earlier articles about my great grandfather,  I am so proud to be his descendant.  Each of these articles brings him to life.

 

Why I Have to Write About Gun Control

3 Sep

It has been a bizarre week in Kansas.   First has been the trial of the man who killed two people at the Jewish Community Campus and one at Village Shalom in April 2014. I know his name, but it is not worth saying. He wants the publicity. He is a sick demented man who was able to get guns and act out on his baseless hatred.

Second it is the anniversary of the killing of five innocent people in a quiet cul de sac. I knew one of them. I saw her brother and sister in law when they came to our synagogue to say Kaddish for her yahrzeit two weeks ago. Her death was shocking, happening just five months after the JCC shootings. I think the entire Kansas City metro was in shock after these two mass killing events.

Finally, it is something her nephew posted. Saying that his aunt was an activist. She was. And she would want us to do something about the gun problem in the United States. And I believe she would.

So I will say something.

I have used a M-16 during target practice. It is a gun meant to use to kill.   I have walked a path along the dorms at Mount Scopus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, holding an Uzi. I was taught to hold it to my hip and spray in a half circle if I needed to shoot. In was 1974. The Yom Kippur War was still on everyone’s mind. And those of us who lived in the dorms had to do guard duty once a month. Usually I held the lantern. But we had to know how to use a gun, just in case the other person was injured or killed.

I know that guns can be used for protection. But I also know that guns can be used to kill. And I do not believe in senseless killing.

I do not think anyone in the 1700’s thought that one day there would be guns that could shot out multiple rounds of bullets in seconds. I do not think that they imagined a nation that exists now. When people do not have to have guns to provide food for their families or that militias no longer are needed. They wrote the Constitution in different times

I believe that people are misinterpreting the Second Amendment because they are unwilling to accept what is needed: stricter gun laws.   The Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The right to bear arms is tied to the need for a militia. We have no need for a militia now. There is no need for all these guns to be out in the public.

I am not against people owning guns for sport, although it is not a sport I am interested in. I do not think that all gun owners would kill innocent people. But we see time after time, guns getting into the wrong hands.

I am sick of the NRA’s intense lobbying of our legislative representatives. And how their gun money is swaying the votes to go against common sense. They do not want regulations; they do not want more background checks; they do not want licenses.

To drive a car in this country, you have to have a license and insurance. You have to pass a test to prove you know how to drive. You should have to take a test to prove you know how to use a gun before you are allowed buy one!!!

To move into an apartment for the first time, you have to have a background check. My son did: to rent an apartment, not even to buy a gun.

But to buy a gun in some states people can just go into a store or go online or go to a gun show and buy a weapon of death. It has become too easy to kill in the USA.

We have seen time after time innocent children and adults going to school, or going to the movies, or perhaps shopping at a mall, or to the gym, or in the case of Susan C. just standing in her driveway at the wrong moment.

When will it stop?

When will we say to the men and women who serve in our state and national legislatures that we will not vote for them if they take money from the gun lobbies?

That is what I plan to do.

I think that enough is enough. Every one of us must make a stand and no longer remain silent. The NRA and gun owners should not be running our Congress. WE, The PEOPLE should be running Congress.