When I began writing, my initial goal was to be a dad advocate as my own experiences motivated me in that direction. I still advocate on behalf of dads and all parents. But as I ventured into the world of social media, I realized I had another goal of larger importance and that was to do my part to make the world a better place.
In Judaism, it’s called Tikkun Olam, which roughly means "to repair the world.” A further Jewish belief is that when you help ONE person, you are helping the world. After all, one person at a time can add up to a lot of people if everyone adopted that behavior.
Later in this column, I will list ideas for you and for your children to employ. Doing these separately or together will indeed help “Repair the World,” but more importantly, it will make you feel better. I’ve often said that the more you give, the more you get.
A favorite example of mine was when I became a Big Brother. At the time, I led a very fun and largely self-indulgent life. I was single, I was doing well in my showbiz career, my parents were well and independent, and I had money in the bank. Heck, I even drove a convertible!
Thankfully, something inside me said I needed to give back in gratitude for the good fortune that I was living. In showbiz, the conventional way of giving back was to join a charity that the community supported and fund-raise. It was noble, but it also was sort of self-serving because it gave you the opportunity to interact and network within the community. Also, it was political and I really wanted to avoid that.
I had always loved and wanted kids, so I chose the Big Brother organization as my way of giving back. It would be a one-on-one interaction with a child and there would be minimal group activities and even less adult encounters. I went through a three-month interview process, dare I say interrogation, during which time I attended training sessions, was fingerprinted and “verified,” had one-on-one sessions with a social worker and was finally “approved.”
My expectation was to be matched with a little boy and we’d go to the park and play ball, sort of like I did with my own dad when I was little. Instead, I was matched with a little girl. Sadly, this doesn’t happen much anymore due to legal fears, though the need is still present for girls without fathers to have a father figure in their lives. Thank you, lawyers and the politically correct!
My “little” didn’t like to play ball. In fact, she didn’t like to do much. She didn’t even like to go to the movies or get an ice cream. She was difficult. She had her reasons. “Our” social worker said I could ask for a change, however encouraged me to keep on trying to connect. I chose to stay. In time, we found things we enjoyed doing together.
I stayed “matched” with this “little” for the next decade, during which time I got married and had my first boy. I also got the best possible training to become a parent! I learned how to relate to a kid who didn’t share my interests. I learned how NOT to make it all about me. I got as much or more than I gave, pure and simple.
My “little” is now a successful middle-school teacher in her thirties and we’re still in touch.
When my boys were growing up, I was stunned to discover how they did not share my love of sports. My experience as a Big Brother was invaluable in showing me the way to love them in spite of our differences. They are NOT me was the bottom-line lesson I got.
I think this is the perfect example of helping the world, one person at a time. My “little” and me we went through many difficult phases that I later encountered with my own boys. I was prepared. How wonderful!
How can you and your children “Repair the World?” Here are just a few ideas, in no particular order:
- Become a Big Brother or Big Sister.
- Volunteer at Thanksgiving at a shelter for the homeless. Go together with your children and help serve the Thanksgiving dinner.
- Befriend an alone elderly person at a local senior living facility. Together or separately, volunteer to read to one senior, or to a group. Make it a weekly or monthly habit.
- Organize your own singing group to entertain at a senior center or assisted living facility.
- Visit ANYONE that is alone at a hospital. Regularly.
- Read to the blind. My son and I read on a small local radio station where we literally read the newspaper to the blind listeners that this station catered to. Boy, was that a sobering experience for both of us.
- Write to a soldier abroad. They are lonely and many do not have great support at home.
The list of things YOU can do "to repair the world” is endless. Please do this for yourself and your family. You will feel amazing and you will reap rewards you cannot possibly anticipate. Let me know what you do and how it “pays off” for you, please!