Remember those “Take Your Daughter to Work” days of our youth? Not surprisingly, in the name of political correctness, the annual observance is now called “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day”, but the concept remains the same. Shadowing an adult and exposing children to what their parent or mentor does during the workday emphasizes the value of education and fosters achievement of success. What I discovered yesterday, is that it can also create a whole new perspective on who your parent is, and the tremendous daily impact they have on your community.
First things first. It wasn’t actually “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day”. (It’s on the fourth Thursday in April each year, and only in US and Canada. Israel probably doesn’t celebrate because we’re so chilled here in Start-Up nation, that on any given day there’s probably a kid or two watching YouTube videos at your desk and lining up for hot chocolate at the Drinka machine.) Also, I’m of the age where I’m in the daily grind of “Take Myself to Work Day”- ‘aint nobody got time to go to work with Daddy, too.
Either way. My father is a prominent community member due to his position as the Executive Director of Lema’an Achai (For the Sake of My Brothers), a local charity organization. Yesterday, he arrived back home from a fundraising tour in USA and my 5 year old daughter was anxious to go visit Sabba as soon as she could. Since she ended gan at 1:50 pm (who does that?!!?), and my workplace doesn’t approve of taking your child to work- something about disrupting productivity? – I had time to kill and what better way than to bond with my kid and dad at the same time!
We swung by the Lema’an Achai headquarters- a modest apartment which belies the greatness brewing within. While I’m familiar with their work, and unique holistic approach to combating poverty in my community of Ramat Beit Shemesh and beyond, my involvement with this non-profit doesn’t extend much beyond monthly donations. I did know this: Lema’an Achai is a charity organization aimed at ending the cycle of poverty as opposed to just giving handouts to poor people. Based on the adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, they have a comprehensive method for fighting poverty, comprised of social work, financial advice, career counseling, etc, in addition to the usual food packages and dental work/after school programs for less fortunate kids. They call it “Smart Chesed”- and it is so aptly named. They have hundreds of success stories where destitute families were actually given a hand up from poverty, instead of just a handout.
But, as is often the case of theory vs. practice, when my daughter and I knocked on the simple door of Nachal Lachish 40, I was struck by the true significance of this well-kept secret of a foundation.
From the moment we walked in, it was clear that every shekel raised by Lema’an Achai is used to fund their various programs. There was no fresh paint job, fancy mini bar, ostentatious drink machine, plush carpeting, or luxurious swivel chairs. This was the real deal. Like those shelters you see on TV. Every inch of space was utilized- a porch held an inventory of dry goods and pantry items, a small dental clinic was set up in one of the bedrooms, a library of used school books to be provided free of charge to the recipients was piled in the living room area. The young girl who let us in excused herself to remove a piping hot tray of potatoes from the oven in the tiny kitchen, part of a warm meal for kids who have no home-cooked food waiting for them after school.
Directly in front of us stood a newly printed rollup with the phrase, “Treat Yourself. Treat Others” emblazoned in the familiar pink and orange “Dunkin Donuts” font. It went on to explain a campaign in which when you purchase sufganiyot for your family, you can take a Lema’an Achai voucher at the counter which treats families in need to sufganiyot as well. So simple, yet so profound. Amidst the rampant materialism and gift-giving, taking advantage of the Chanukah season of spreading joy to include those less-fortunate is such a relevant concept.
When we inquired as to where Avrohom/Daddy/Sabba was, the girl told me he had stepped out, so we took the liberty of going to his office to wait- or at least have a little snoop around. In accordance with the non-profit theme, my father’s office turned out to be an enclosed porch, complete with a tin roof and walls. It was technically still a corner office with a window, but the well-worn desk and faded swivel chair was where the corporate analogy ended. My daughter was excited to see a pack of markers and Chanukah coloring sheets on the conference table in the room, and wondered why they were there.
In just a short moment, we had our answer. The sliding once-porch doors opened to reveal a sweet blonde teenager accompanied by a younger preschooler.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!”, she exclaimed, as if she had interrupted us (She had not- we were just stalking the grandkid pics adorning my father’s walls).
“Is it OK if we use this room now?”, she asked. Hesitantly. Politely.
“Of course!”, we breathed, and walked out of what was essentially the CEO’s office as she and the frail girl whose hand she still tightly gripped arranged themselves by the table to decorate Chanukah pictures.
As we made our way back to the car, I looked at my little girl- about the same age as the impoverished looking child we had just met upstairs- the one who doesn’t need to be farmed out to make Chanukah decorations with a volunteer, and has a warm meal waiting for her after school in her own kitchen.
And I felt grateful. Grateful for my lot in life, but even more grateful for the holy work Lema’an Achai does on a daily basis. Perhaps supremely grateful for the opportunity to see and fully appreciate what exactly my father does for a living.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy Chanukah holiday to all, lit by the warmth of good hearts and giving hands.
Lema’an Achai or any of its subsidiaries have not sponsored or endorsed this unsolicited communication.