Some say that the new generation is steeped in materialism and can’t see past their ipod screens. Is it true? A recent event in Israel honoring junior volunteers yielded some surprises.
Last summer, M, a sixth grader, noticed something strange going on in her neighbor’s home. “There are two children living there, and I understood that their mother had cancer. She was undergoing treatments, and some of the time, was even hospitalized. And those kids were home alone.” M. decided to help. She invited the kids to her house, which turned into a regular practice. “They come every day after school, eat lunch, do their homework with me and play games. They go home only when a relative arrives to be with them.” M. didn’t see anything extraordinary about what she had been doing but the organizers at the event thought differently and she was singled out for an award.
S joined M on stage also unsure of why she was there. “We have an elderly neighbor with no children or family, and also, almost no money. I think that he doesn’t always even have what to eat. I come to him almost every day with food, sit with him a bit and speak to him. It’s just regular. Anyone would do it.”
Many of these children have discovered Ezer Mizion as the place where there is always a need for chessed. Z has been volunteering for Ezer Mizion since she was seven years old. She just walked in to Ezer Mizion and asked to volunteer. “They didn’t understand what I wanted. After all, I was just a little kid. They smiled and gave me a few jobs, thinking I’d soon get tired and go home. It’s been five years since then, and I’m still there. Twice a week (“Before Yom Tov, every day, and during vacation, all day”)
I come straight from school, put down my book bag in a corner, and get to work. I arrange meal trays, pack up vegetables, and give food to anyone who comes with a note. Sometimes, I go to the preschools and pick up non-perishable leftovers from lunch. Sometimes, I deliver food packages to people’s homes, and other times, I make order in the storeroom, depending on what needs to be done.”
Don’t you ever feel that your volunteering comes at the expense of other fun things, like music or art lessons, or spending time with friends?
“It gives me a good feeling to volunteer, and I also enjoy it. If I have a lesson or club, or if I make up to meet with a friend, I go there after I finish at Ezer Mizion. Before Yom Tov, I was there every day and I helped pack up food packages. I think that helping people who are in need is more important than all the other stuff. It also makes you feel good, in your heart. It leaves you with a taste for more. I am the youngest volunteer they’ve ever had.”
D has found a different venue for helping others. One can’t help noticing her lovely hair. That hair is now on several other heads in addition to hers. D is grateful for her beautiful hair and feels it’s proper to ‘give back’ by donating it to Ezer Mizion. “When I was five, I saw a picture of a girl who was bald. My mother explained to me that the girl is sick and that part of the treatment for her illness made her hair fall out. To me, that was awful, and I knew that I wanted to help. I said I would give her some of my hair. It’s funny. Usually little kids have ideas that don’t really make much sense. Little did I know that my idea about giving my hair was a real possibility and done by many people. My mother said that I was too small. She assumed I’d forget about it. But I couldn’t. Every time I thought of that girl being so embarrassed walking around with no hair, I wanted to help. Finally, when I got to second grade, my mother agreed.
Did you have any regrets?
“No. I knew that I had plenty of hair and that it would grow back. I actually waited for my hair to grow in enough so that I could donate it again. This year, my braid reached the right length, so I went to have it cut and donated it. I had a lot of hair this time. They might even be able to make two wigs from it.”
D.relates that the day of her haircut was a happy day for her, “because it meant that there would be a girl somewhere who would look in the mirror and forget about her sickness, at least for a few minutes. I try to convince my friends to donate to Ezer Mizion, too, even though each one of them loves her hair and finds it really hard to part with it.”
The stage was soon filled with youngsters who had discovered what many adults do not know. What do you think? Will Ezer Mizion have any problem filling its volunteer slots next generation?