I was that child. The child who gratefully received strangers into her home, strangers who came with presents and food for the holidays. A knock at the door, then smiles and kind voices. Brown bags of groceries were stacked on the table next to colorfully wrapped boxes. The three of us danced around the legs of the adults as they shook hands, my mother tearful and thankful.
As an adult I now realize how poor my family was, but as a child I loved this time of year. My belly was always full and our home felt truly blessed. My mother told me that there were people who cared about us so much that they gave from their own homes. I thought of them as my neighbors, although I didn't know who they were. I would try to picture them. Did they have a big family? Were there children my age?
These memories are close to my heart and I carry them with me as I volunteer in my community. Most of us have very little control over the big picture - the politics of the world, but our individual choices leave footprints in the lives of our friends and families. My synagogue and my local community are part of my family and I choose to honor them through my commitment, serving on the Board at my synagogue as Vice President of Social Action for the last three years. There are individuals within my extended family who are less fortunate, who struggle financially, who live pay check to pay check - good people, who need help. I organize food drives, raise funds for the local food bank, and personally make food deliveries. Last year I ran a "Diaper Drive" through my work and the year before it was a Toy Drive.
And every time I give, I think of that child. And it's like I'm giving to myself.