May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Key to Living Longer: Volunteer

This coming Sunday, November 6, the Federation in our area will be hosting “Mitzvah Day,” an annual event that offers people of all ages the opportunity to choose from a variety of volunteering options. Even if you have never volunteered before, Mitzvah Day provides you and your family with the chance to try performing a mitzvah that you may never have thought of, such as painting a room for use by a charitable organization, giving blood, making an art project for a child with cancer, etc. (You can check the Federation’s website for more information.)

If you are an observant Jew who tries to do mitzvot as regularly as possible, then picking one day to identify as “mitzvah” day may seem somewhat strange to you. Isn’t every day of a Jew’s life a “mitzvah” day? Aren’t we obligated to do mitzvot daily? What is unique about this program is that all of the mitzvah opportunities being made available are about helping someone else. The thoughts of those participating are thus directed completely toward others; the volunteer does not seek or expect anything for himself, as his intention is purely altruistic. Such mitzvot are generally not performed on a regular basis by most people; the emphasis on this special day is thus to volunteer to help others.

While a volunteer’s intention may indeed be completely selfless, the giver may nonetheless be the recipient of many positive results of his deeds, including better health. A recent Corporation for National and Community Service report noted, “Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health… those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.” The fact that volunteering has been proven to make you healthier is a wonderful reason to engage in pro bono activities on Mitzvah Day and any other day that you can.

A little over a year ago, I volunteered to take over the Bikur Cholim of Bergen County Medical Gemach, one branch of an important local organization devoted to helping people and families going through medical difficulties in a variety of ways. A very dear friend of mine, who had herself recently become very involved in the Bikur Cholim organization, invited me to attend a meeting at another friend’s home, together with a group of women, to discuss the future expectations and goals of the organization. One item on the agenda was finding a new home for the medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, shower seats, etc.) lent by the gemach to people in need of them, since the woman who had previously run the gemach was making aliyah with her family. Because my car and the inside of my garage have never met, as our garage is used to store a lot of “stuff,” storing the medical equipment there along with all the other stuff seemed like something I could volunteer to do.

One month later, my husband and I rented a U-Haul truck, and along with my son, son-in-law and a few friends, loaded the truck at the home of the family making aliyah and then unloaded all the supplies into their new home—my two-car-without-any-cars garage. Since taking on this project and supervising the lending of this equipment, I have met so many people in the community whom I would not otherwise have had any connection to. Sometimes people stop and tell me about their elderly parent or grandparent who needs a walker or wheelchair. People have cried at my front steps when they tell me about a parent who passed away recently and they want to donate the wheelchair or rollator that this parent had used so that it can be of use to someone else. Last week, someone texted me the following message: “Over the chagim, my mother was able to get to Tashlich (with the walker), my 96-year-old grandmother got to shul both days of Rosh Hashanah, and over Sukkot my husband’s 93-year-old grandfather was able to go to shul.” When I said yes to taking on this project a year ago, I could not have imagined how much positive feeling and energy I would get from volunteering to do this “mitzvah.”

I have recently had the opportunity to speak to other people who volunteer. One of my friends is an accountant and he volunteers his time to help shuls and organizations with their books. This is a huge help to the institutions that he volunteers for and he feels a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Other people prefer to volunteer for an organization that works with groups, as they enjoy the socialization and conversation with like-minded people, all working toward a common good.

Whatever your passion is, or if you are in search of something meaningful in your life, try volunteering. You may be surprised at how much you benefit from it yourself.

To volunteering and long life. Shabbat Shalom.

By Beth S. Taubes

 Beth S. Taubes RN, OCN, CBCN, certified health coach, is the director of Wellness Motivations, and will be offering a 30-day “My Challenge” program to help you get back in shape in addition to nutrition consultations, stress management through yoga, individual and group fitness classes. She can be reached at [email protected] or at wellnessmotivationsbt.com.

 

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