Friday, April 16, 2010

Social Reponsibility

I received a very unexpected letter this afternoon, from the Provost of Hebrew College (where I will be getting my Masters degree in June):

I am pleased to inform you that you have been awarded the Wendy R. Breslau Citation and Award for demonstrated social responsibility.

Coool. And thought-provoking.

How have I demonstrated social responsibility? I always thought that "Social Justice" had to be purposeful. Sam's teacher is also the Social Justice coordinator for the school. For Martin Luther King day, the students had a clothing drive; in May, they will participate in Mitzvah day with one of the local synagogues.

While I'm always pleased when the kids are given the chance to participate in events such as these, I also get a little disappointed. Last year, I got into a heated debate with the Family Educator about the value of "Mitzvah Day." (Mitzvah in this sense you could translate as "good deed" - it's a bit deeper than that, but it'll work for the conversation). I had a sinking feeling that designating one special DAY to doing a good deed would make it as if you could be off the hook the rest of the time.

What we are trying to instill in our children is the idea that every day, in fact every moment, can be an opportunity for social justice and social responsibility. Have I succeeded in demonstrating that? I guess I have, enough to win an award. But I don't think I've done enough. I think I still need to strive to do more. I think we all do.

Is being friendly and positive being socially responsible? Well, yeah, I guess. But certainly that's not enough

Is offering helpful information being socially responsible? I suppose as long as the information is needed and correct, yes.

Is just being proud of my kids and being vocal about that pride being socially responsible? I guess maybe in my case it could be, as my children morph from individuals into EXAMPLES of children with ...

Am I pleased that I won an award? Yes. It's nifty. And I'm proud.

Am I embarrassed? Yup.

Do I feel that I've done enough to deserve this award? No. I don't think I'll ever feel that I've done enough. And I hope I instill that value in my kids.

At the Passover seder, it is traditional to leave a cup of wine for the prophet Elijiah. It is said the Elijiah will come to herald the coming of the Messianic era. "While in most homes, the seder leader fills Elijah’s cup from a bottle of wine, the Hasidic sage, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz, insisted that every participant around the table pour some wine from his/her glass into the special cup of redemption. This symbolizes the need for each and every one of us to participate in the healing and transformation of the world." (from the Tents of Hope Seder Guide: A Passover Seder for Darfur).

I firmly believe that each of us has a part to play in healing and transforming the world, and that part is not just a one-day walk-on. It is something that should be part of our very being, part of our daily routine.

Good Shabbos to all...


Adelaide Dupont said...

Remember that the Girl Guides and Scouts do a good deed each day as part of their Promise (and of their everyday lives).

Really appreciate the Passover reflections.

Anonymous said...

Love the comment about your feelings of not doing enough and how you want to install THAT value in your kids. Most people would just feel vaguely guilty and stop there, while you recognize the value in feeling this sense of discomfort.

Beautiful perspective on tikkun olam.

I don't know you, and I don't know the details about this award, but I'm guessing you deserve it more than you know!