Modeling compassion, kindness and action for our kids.

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As parents, we work hard to ensure our children grow up to be compassionate, kind, and productive members of the community.  In a city where homelessness and poverty are part of one’s daily commute, I often fear becoming desensitized and have struggled with how to model compassion, kindness, and action for our kids when we know we can’t help every person we see.  

Volunteering at CHIPS and the Recovery House through New York Families Give Back with my 9-year-old daughter has allowed me to show her the power a group can have in supporting others.  We have volunteered through NYFGB on a regular basis since she was six, with a goal of once a month.  Since then, she has helped serve hundreds, learning the importance and role of the community in helping those in need.  At CHIPS’ Saturday lunches, we have cut bread for serving, rolled silverware and napkins, decorated tables, poured juice, and prepared to-go food bags.  These are simple, yet necessary tasks in which she takes great pride.  At Recovery House’s Food Pantry, we have bagged grocery items on an assembly line (sometimes at great speed, evoking the scene of Lucy and Ethel furiously wrapping chocolates!) and distributed to those who come.  Greeting and being thanked by patrons fosters a connection, putting faces to the food insecurity that is often invisible on our daily commutes. 

When asked why she likes to volunteer, my daughter replied, “I like to do it because I want to help people who may not have enough to eat.”  Pretty simple.

I am so thankful to Amy Lehr for founding New York Families Give Back and to CHIPS and Recovery House the wonderful work they’re doing every day in Brooklyn.  Being part of their work has provided me and my daughter with the spark and natural opportunity to discuss difficult but deeply important topics such as mental illness, hunger, homelessness, how people may find themselves in such circumstances, and most importantly – the compassion, kindness, and service incumbent upon us all.

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Volunteering at Recovery House of Worship

I’d like to say that I grew up volunteering in community efforts, that I have built my life on a string of good works. But that wouldn’t be accurate. I have done what I would consider a small amount of volunteer work throughout my life, most significantly some pro-bono work as an attorney representing victims of domestic abuse. I have also volunteered in my kids’ schools and helped organize supplies for the victims of Hurricane Sandy and each Christmas we drop off cookies at a local shelter.  Small things each one of them,

But small things, I have learned, can be important in their own right.

Volunteering even a small amount of time does good for the people and organizations on the receiving end of your efforts. Volunteering is also an invaluable way to connect with the community. It can also serve as an important reminder of one’s own privileged. 

Wanting to show my children what it means to make a difference in your community that led me to volunteer recently with them in the food pantry at the Recovery House of Worship through NY Families Give Back.

It was an absolutely incredible experience for all of us.   

Every single person we met from the staff, to the other volunteers to the patrons was kind and warm and accepting. We were allowed to actually participate in distributing food, in addition to packing bags, which I thought was an especially meaningful opportunity for my girls because they got to actually meet the people they were helping.

I highly, highly recommend volunteering at the Recovery House of Worship with your children. Not only will you have done an incredibly important service in distributing food to an underserved community, you will meet wonderful people and I promise that your children will never see themselves or other people—especially those in need—in quite the same way again.

H., 12 - You always hope that when you have so many luxuries and opportunities that you feel grateful for them. That you as a person understand how insanely lucky you are. It’s easy to be grateful for the big things: like traveling places. But you ignore the basics. Food and water. Because you have all of those things. You can just walk into the kitchen, open up the refrigerator and you have practically anything your heart desires. But even that is something extremely special many don’t have. Many people have to wake up early on Saturday mornings to get in line for their bag of food. Maybe for some it’s even the one thing they can look forward to every week. The one thing they can depend on. For you that might be your soccer game that you look forward to. But for someone out there—and not that far away—it’s to get food.

When I went to help at the food pantry I felt like I was helping, and it felt good to know that these people might sleep happier tonight than they did last. Knowing that they had some tomato juice in their cupboard instead of none. I think if everyone had the chance to come and help out through the NY families Give Back we would all really and truly realize how much there is to give back.

We think we give back to the people who need it most by just understanding that you might have more than others. But you need to do more. And you can do that through NY Family's Give Back.

E., 9 years old - I felt so lucky at times during volunteering. I felt very bad too to see that some people did not have chances to do some of the things I have done or see some of the things I have seen. I am only 9 but I have still had so many privileges to do some great things. It was definitely an experience worth trying. I will never forget it. I remember the feeling after. It felt really good doing that.