We can’t escape the bad news about our economy. It’s on television, it’s in the newspapers — this one being no exception — and for many of us, it stares us in the face when we look in the mirror. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel good at least some of the time, especially during Hanukkah, when giving gifts is at the front of our minds.
In the spirit of our commandment to perform tikkun olam, repairing the world, we should take the time to try to give something that can be meaningful to our friends and loved ones. Even better, take this exercise in tikkun olam as an opportunity to teach your children about helping others.
Here are some examples of items or gestures that can be gratifying for you as well as the recipient:
• If you have kids in their pre-teens or teens, give them a set amount of money, perhaps $20, and ask them to do the research to find a charity or person in need to which they can donate the money.
• Volunteer at a food bank — our state has many, including one that fulfills the kashrut needs in our community. But don’t just do it right now. Make it a year-round effort. Food banks and delivery services need helpers just as much in July as they do this time of the year, when most people decide to lend a helping hand. And be sure to bring a few extra cans or boxes with you when you go!
• Help an elderly neighbor or resident in a nearby retirement or nursing home with basic tasks or house cleaning. Shopping for their groceries is also amazingly helpful. What you get back is a grateful new friend and likely some telling stories about what things were like in the old days.
• Check in regularly with friends and family that have fallen on hard times. Chances are we all know somebody. For them, a gift might be food on the table, but it’s just as important that they know you care.
• If you are dealing with job loss, foreclosure, family issues or anything like that, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people and organizations both within and outside of the Jewish community willing, and hopefully able, to help.
We could go on and on, but most of us can see people hurting all around us. If we plan to help, we need to start somewhere. Studies have shown that even during a recession, those of us experiencing financial difficulties can see others who are worse off and step up to the plate to help in any way they can. The Jewish community has been no different.
Make this Hanukkah a memorable one by giving of yourself.
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