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Guest Column: Adam Hofstetter – What Have You Done Today To Help?

October 29, 2018

The following was written by Adam Hofstetter. They express the thoughts many of us have had over the weekend. Expressed better than I could.

Used by permission

Every year, I am asked to speak to my school’s entire 11th grade about chessed (acts of kindness and charity). The first year was a week after terrorists murdered four innocent people at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Every year since then, I’ve given some version of the same speech.

Every year, I talk to them about how easy it is to lose hope in this broken world. I talk to them about the horrific events of September 11, 2001, which happened before this year’s 11th graders were born. I talk to them about how heartbreaking and painful and terrifying it was to watch on TV as the towers crumbled. I talk to them about how hopeless I felt.

And then I talk to them about what happened a few hours later when I walked, alongside thousands of fellow New Yorkers, across what is now called the Ed Koch Bridge into Queens to get home from work because trains, buses, and cars were barred from entering or leaving Manhattan. I talk about getting to the other side of the bridge and seeing dozens of ordinary Queens residents lined up to give us cups of water in case we were thirsty after the long walk on that unusually warm day. I talk to them about how that small act of kindness (that chessed) not only quenched my thirst but restored my hope and inspired me to do more to help people in need, and still inspires me today.

I talk to them about Mr. Rogers and his famous quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ … To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

And then I tell them that, as wonderful a woman as Mr. Rogers’s mother must have been, she was wrong. When tragedy strikes, our job is not to look for the helpers. Our job is to BE the helpers.

I talk to them about how to do that. I tell them that the key is to always ask yourself one simple question whenever disaster strikes: “What can I do to make things better?” No matter how far away you are or how insignificant you feel, there is always something tangible you can do to help.

I’ve spent a lot of time today trying to answer that question: “What can I do to make things better?” I don’t have any groundbreaking answers, but I’ve been inspired by several things I’ve seen and I’m moved to share them here.

You can hold a blood drive, like the Pittsburgh Penguins are doing tomorrow (https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/413550-pittsburgh-penguins-will-host-blood-drive-collection-to-help), so that when senseless violence comes to your community the victims can get proper medical treatment without delay. Contact your local blood bank to find out how to hold such an event. And if organizing an event is too much for you, you can donate blood on your own.

You can donate to HIAS, the 137-year-old organization whose life-saving work helping refugees from all over the world get settled in and acclimated to their new countries so infuriated the monster who murdered 11 Jews yesterday in Squirrel Hill: https://www.hias.org/ways-give. Better yet, get involved with HIAS and help them save lives: https://www.hias.org/take-action.

You can donate directly to Tree of Life to help the victims and their families cover medical and funeral expenses and help the congregation repair the building: https://www.gofundme.com/tree-of-life-synagogue-shooting.

You can donate to the GoFundMe campaign to show gratitude to the Pittsburgh Police for literally running into the line of fire to end yesterday’s massacre (four of them were shot in the process): https://www.gofundme.com/4xyy6bpw.

You can donate and/or volunteer to help protect a house of worship in your community, like more than 1,000 Muslims did for a synagogue in Norway a few years ago (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/denmark/11427713/Muslims-form-ring-of-peace-to-protect-Oslo-synagogue.html).

And, especially if you usually don’t, you should attend prayer services at your chosen house of worship this coming sabbath to show them they have more support than they may think, to show the world that we will not be intimidated, and to pray to G-d to help us heal this broken world.

There are many other tangible ways we can help the people in pain, prevent or minimize the next act of senseless violence, or make the world a less hateful place. I know I don’t have all the answers. But I’m doing what I can. I hope you are, too.

The world needs more helpers. Let’s be the helpers.
– Adam Hofstetter

Here’s to the helpers. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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