Philip Bendheim

What We Get By Giving

Giving. (Unsplash)

There is no question that Yad Sarah saves and transforms thousands of lives every day. With the help of donors and a national network of volunteers, an elderly woman gets the walker she needs; lifesaving help is delivered within minutes to the home of a man who falls down; and a disabled boy can visit the beach, thanks to a ride in Yad Sarah’s accessible van. All of these people, and many, many more, clearly rely on Yad Sarah, its donors and its volunteers.

But think about it like this: donors are also reliant on the volunteers to carry out their duties; and both the donors and the volunteers – in order to experience the act of giving – are reliant on the recipients that receive their help. Without them, donors and volunteers would not be able to give. And in Judaism, giving is a commandment; at the very least having someone to give to allows one to complete this important mitzvah.

This interdependence of donors, volunteers and recipients is what happens when you build an organization around giving help and services to those in need. Ultimately, everyone is giving and receiving something, and the cycle is neverending. One of my favorite stories is about a taxi driver whose passenger asked if Yad Sarah was a worthwhile organization to donate to; the driver immediately pulled over, relayed how Yad Sarah had added years to his mother’s life, then said he would give this passenger a free ride if he donated. And this is just one example of how a recipient of our services ultimately became a giver.

In the Jewish world, this interdependence is tikkun olam, or making the world a better place, in action. It is why organized giving is so powerful. This kind of giving can be applied anywhere, at any time to solve most any problem. And, as we have seen over the last 47 years, this giving and repairing of the world only grows as new needs and challenges arise, motivating more services, more givers and more recipients.

So how do you do this? It requires three things: People, a need, and resources.

People Make All the Difference

 If you’ve noticed a challenge or need in the community, chances are others have noticed it too – and in the era of social media and ultra-easy app-driven interconnectivity, reaching out to others who want to solve a problem is easier than ever. Community members who are most concerned about an issue can hold an initial meeting, whether online or in person, in order to jumpstart a process that could eventually have a major impact. 

Those who do come forward, either with money, or with their time or expertise as volunteers, will comfort, enable or empower the recipients of a service. At the same time, these organizers, donors and volunteers will also feel uplifted. Everyday, I see how volunteers’ lives are enriched by being part of Yad Sarah, and how everyone gets something by giving.

Filling a real need

Effective organizational giving means identifying a need, or what may become a need in the near future, breaking it down into specific components, and creatively addressing the components that the group has the resources to deal with. 

A good example is the effort Yad Sarah made to acquire pulse oximeters just as Covid began spreading. Blood oxygen levels were an important way for doctors to determine the onset- thereby giving a heads-up of the seriousness of infection, and as the virus spread, acquiring an oximeter became a major challenge. Anticipating the need, Yad Sarah scoured the market for oximeters, and immediately made them available to thousands of the most vulnerable, who need to keep a close eye on their blood oxygen levels.

Every new need is an opportunity to give more, and for the recipients, volunteers and donors to feel more empowered and connected, therefore making the world a better place.

Utilizing Resources of all Kinds 

Money, of course, makes the world go round, and enables groups to reach more of those in need – as well as expand their circle of supporters. But often the resources a community needs are there already – and getting help to those in need is just a matter of redirecting those resources. 

Sustainability, for example, is an area that concerns many today. Communities can “recycle” household items, food, clothing, and even skills. For example, groups can coordinate with community members to pick up leftovers, packaged goods, and more – and deliver those items to families that are struggling to feed their kids. That method could work with any resource – and could make a world of difference in the lives of recipients. A group that marshals those resources could save community members vast amounts of money – as well as reduce waste.

That idea of “recycling” for the good of the community is at the heart of Yad Sarah’s work. Making medical equipment readily available and easily accessible has been the organization’s raison d’être from Day One. This equipment has saved untold amounts of money for many people who could not otherwise have afforded what is often life-saving equipment. And it’s not just about the money; people may need to borrow items because they cannot find them elsewhere, or because stores and suppliers have limited hours. For example, a pregnant woman about to go into labor recently came to Yad Sarah to borrow a TENS machine, to relieve pain during labor, because she just couldn’t find one anywhere else. Mother and baby are doing fine, by the way.

The results of all this organizational giving will be a better quality of life for everyone involved, both recipients and those propagating it. And an additional result will be a better, more cohesive community that will benefit everyone. These acts often snowball to the extent that we now have not just a collection of atomized individuals, but a community where people look out for their neighbors. Through this community, it becomes easier to identify new needs, and then to add volunteers or services to meet them. 

With society divided perhaps more than ever in our history, building community in this way may be even more critical than saving people money or encouraging sustainable living. These methods aren’t restricted to helping patients with medical equipment; they could work for anyone, anywhere. All it takes is the desire to solve a problem, the means to do it, and a plan for actualizing that desire. When communities get together to give, it will help bring the world the love – and the tikkun olam – it so sorely needs. 

About the Author
Philip Bendheim is a dedicated second-generation volunteer in the Yad Sarah family. He is a director of Yad Sarah's International Board of Overseers and USA Friends of Yad Sarah
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