Friday, May 3, 2013

What you give is what you get

It was Mitzvah Day.  In its most simplistic terms, mitzvah is a worthy deed; a meritorious or
Shit Shoveler Extraordinaire!
charitable act.  For mini-me, it was a Sunday not spent learning her Judaica or Hebrew therefore making whatever else was on the agenda infinitely more appealing.  We had a list of activities from which to choose – helping the elderly, helping children, packing meals, keeping company….all so worthwhile. But then mini saw the words “Triple R Horse Rescue” and it was like a cartoon balloon appeared over her head with the word “YOWZA!”  Not only would her mitzvah involve horses but it was also at a ranch she was familiar with, had competed at and there was a chance she would run into another rider – or horse – that she knew.

After the Big Cut
The day before, Mini did something even braver – and way cooler. You see, Mini had hair to her waist – hair of the most extraordinary red. In a tribute and honor to Neiman, Mini-me cut off 10” of her hair and donated it to Locks of Love.  Watching the cut and the big smile on Mini’s face while Lips yielded the scissors, I wept. Big ugly tears rolled down my face – both of pride at what Mini was doing and memory of being with Neiman while we cut her hair off at the start of chemo.  I was ferklempt. People stared and I’m reasonably sure Mini was horrified. As a parent and a friend, I was overwhelmed and surprised by the emotion of it. 

Mini-me’s willingness and excitement to help others made me think about my friends and what they do.  I see my friends who doctor and nurse and know they are in it for the right reasons – despite frustrations with the business side of things.  I’ve gone to them for advice and one even stitched up Mini’s belly.  Their compassion and willingness to help heal is part of who they are – it is what they bring to their profession (and their friendships) and not what they learned in medical school.  Lips spent a long time working with cancer patients – caring for them and boosting their fragile morale. She has no medical degree but her ability to help heal a wounded spirit is miraculous.

It seems so many of my close friends are givers.  Neiman’s life is hectic – very public and busy job, new homeowner, old home seller, …who not only sits on the assorted Boards of Directors and helps guide countless community and statewide efforts, but in her new role as cancer survivor, is starting an online support/resource group so others don’t feel so alone.  Wow, a very busy mom of three who already works in the nonprofit arena volunteers at her synagogue – bolstering and building that community.    Tinkerbell is non-stop mom in motion who in her overwhelming gratitude at her child’s recovery has dedicated herself to cures for childhood cancer (her hubby does, too!!)  Runner supports those both near and far – she runs in support of and in the hope of.  Geek volunteers at Kooky’s school – she’s helped kids with homework, supervised after school care, bought and sold assorted crap and more.

Even in my family – Mini-Mom has been helping a good friend through unimaginably difficult times. She is chauffeuring, cooking, delivering. She is helping, listening and doing. She is holding a hand and in the process, helping a heart.  Dad’s Favorite has long volunteered with old folks – providing companionship and support to a sweet soul for years. When she called to tell me that this sweet soul had died, my heart hurt for Dad’s Favorite. She’s always had patience for the geriatric set and I knew she saw in that sweet soul a bit of our grandmother and our parents.  Beach was a long time volunteer with a group that was sort of the drunken stepsisters to another uber-proper group – they raised countless dollars to support local charities in need.

In addition to the amazing volunteer efforts, my friends give of themselves – to their friends. To watch Stretch, Pixie, Snow White, Brenda Starr and others support and give to one another - a kind word, a shoulder, a partner in crime or a much needed swift kick in the ass. I’ve been on the receiving end of all those things – and appreciated it more than they will ever know.  Almost nine years ago, I was seven months pregnant and moving. I was alone with no help and there was Beach. She may as well have been wearing a cape – she moved, cleaned, unpacked and put away (for more than a year I would have to call and ask where she put things.)  I never asked – she was just there.  Neiman has hopped a plane and held my hand during many of life’s challenges – turning despair into memories that garner more than one laugh.  Patron can be the voice of reason (if you know him, you may have just laughed) for all sorts of advice but when I called him because I was hemorrhaging during the early stages of my pregnancy...well, hearing his voice catch, the fear and love in his words - well, they were a far away hug during the scariest time. Time and distance couldn't get him there but he arranged for someone to come hold my hand.

So, after what turned out to be a weekend of Mitzvah’s. After Mini squealed with glee over shorter hair, after she spent hours in the hot sun happily shoveling horseshit, distributing feed and grooming. After she declared that she needed to volunteer “a lot more” I’m left in wonder.  I am surrounded by both family and friends who have a boundless sense of generosity.

As someone who has spent the better part of her professional years in the non-profit world, I understand the value of those who give. For years, what kept me working – and serving on the board of another non-profit – was being surrounded by the generosity of those who gave and the determination and gratitude of those who received. There really is nothing like working in that kind of environment and I miss it.

Today, my friends may not all know each other. In fact, many have never met. But what they have in common is that they give of themselves. They call, they post, they pledge.  They donate, volunteer or organize. They hop on a bandwagon, shout from a soapbox and “share.”  They show up, hold a hand and lend an ear. So, just when I think I miss being surrounded by those who give….I only have to look at Mini…and my friends. And, I still wonder – how lucky I am to be surrounded by such generosity.

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