So many days of the year, you feel like you’re not making much of a difference. But every once in a while, a day comes along that just gives you hope, and the knowledge that maybe, maybe, your actions helped make a small, positive change in the lives of a few people, and you go to sleep feeling great.
Sunday was one of those days for me. A few years ago my wonderful mother-in-law told me about this fantastic annual event that her synagogue hosts. Sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women (an organization my late, beloved grandmother volunteered for), it’s called the Back 2 School Store, and it’s purpose is simple: To provide free clothes, school supplies, books and other merchandise to underprivileged children in the Nassau County, N.Y. area.
More than 500 children attend each year, the events are held by NCJW in many big cities, and Sunday was this year’s event. I had tried to volunteer for it last year I but I think I missed the deadline or something. This year, though, I made sure I was there.
And it was wonderful. And uplifting. The entire temple is turned into a department store, with registration tables, areas for the parents/guardians to sit and wait, and most importantly, a huge section for shopping. There were tables and tables of pants, shirts, shoes, winter coats, hats, books, underwear, socks… basically everything a child needs to get ready for the school year.
I was lucky enough to do two jobs Sunday: for part of the time I was a Parent Escort, helping guide the parents to the different areas where they could wait for their child to be finished, but I also got the coveted assignment of Personal Shopper for a few hours: I walked around the store with children helping them try on clothes, pick out their favorite outfits, and excitedly fill their bags.
It was so much fun. Seeing the look in their eyes while they grabbed a sweatshirt or some flashy new pajamas, realizing that all this stuff was free and they could take it home… some of the children just glowed. I heard some heartbreaking stories from other volunteers about kids from past years, including one who was so excited about one particular freebie: “You mean, I get my OWN toothbrush!” he exclaimed.
The children I helped Sunday couldn’t have been more gracious: One of “my kids” seemed ready to take the first thing I offered him from each table, before I reminded him “it’s OK if you look around a little, you can take whichever one you like best!”
Then there was the 7-year-old boy who, halfway through, looked up at me all of a sudden and asked “I’ve got to pay for all this stuff, right?” I told him no, it was all free, and he immediately smiled and kept shopping.
Then I had a second-grade boy who didn’t care much at all about which clothes he got, but when we got to the free backpacks, opened about 10 of them to see what color the folders and binders inside were, till finally being happy with a black and red one.
Watching their faces walking out was so gratifying; the thanks and gratitude expressed to the volunteers as they lugged out their haul was worth any tiredness accrued.
Did we change the world Sunday? Not in a grand sense, no. But 500 kids will have nice new clothes and school supplies for the new year starting in a few weeks, stuff they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
And that’s a pretty good way to spend a day.
**Next up today, this happened over the weekend and was kind of insane. For the first time ever, a man skydived from an airplane at 25,000 feet without a parachute.
And, you know, lived to tell about it.
Luke Aikins, in the above video, leaped out of a perfectly good, working plane and into a giant 100-foot net in California on Saturday. The video from his helmet is just breathtaking.
Way to go Luke, you crazy bastard. Also blogging about this gives me an excuse to link you to this video: Me, jumping out of an airplane for my first-ever skydive, in 2009 in Florida. Still can’t believe I was crazy enough to do it.
**Finally today, sometimes a political cartoon is so clever and brilliant, it makes your mouth go wide.
Cartoonist Joe Heller drew this fantastic cartoon (below) summing the Hillary/Trump opposing viewpoints, and it took me a few seconds to get it, but when I did, I knew I had to share it.
Great job, Joe.