Yesterday, my kids school organized an event meant for the kids to volunteer a day dedicated to “Good Deeds”. They were given several different options devoted to projects that serviced those less fortunate to choose from.
Some of their friends elected to bake cookies with the elderly or clean up a park…all terrific and kid friendly activities.
When my friend told me that she was organizing a Good Deed day event at our local synagogue with the Rabbis Wife (mind you, this is no ordinary Rabbis wife – she is young and gorgeous and can kick my butt in a push up contest!!)- to hear the local Holocaust survivors tell their stories – Well, it seemed like a no brainer to go- after all, the synagogue was only a few blocks from my house AND they were serving free breakfast – I figured I could be in and out and still make it to the beach later that day…..
Before I got there my stomach was killing me from eating so much junk food over the weekend and I looked forward to my weekly routine to begin again with healthier habits….you all know the drill.
But once I got there and the first speaker got up…..he looked old and frail yet he spoke with a voice full of conviction- as though he wanted- no, NEEDED – to relay the message and make an impact
– I suddenly felt sick in a different way.
He began telling his story of when he was just 5 years old he and his mother- his only surviving family member who hadn’t been slaughtered by the Nazis – fled from their homes to avoid the concentration camp and had to live in the forest. They had no food, no shelter, no clothing to keep them warm in the cold Russian winter….they would eat only what they were able to kill- a passing rabbit if they were lucky- would last for weeks…..he went on to describe how for TWO YEARS he and the others in the group would be in such serious starvation mode that they were not even aware of the severity of their hunger pain….it just became a part of them. His biggest “joyful” memory of that time was when one of the older members found a horse for the group to eat – a rare feast for the famished, hypothermic and terrified people.
His and the others’ stories were so deeply rooted in painful horrific memories -that even I- as an adult- became uncomfortable and unnerved just listening.
I glanced over at my children and considered that perhaps I had made the wrong choice to bring them to this particular event- so young- so innocent- but immediately changed my mind when I heard my eldest ask the 85 year old “survivor” what is his favorite food now? What are his hobbies? Where did he live after the war?
The fact that she as able to interact and understand at least on SOME level- what this man had gone through- well, just amazed me. When my youngest handed him a picture of an elephant she had drawn for him- and told him that elephants are bigger than horses to eat- well, I could not have been MORE PROUD.
It was MY reaction, however, that surprised myself the most……
How many times had I complained that I feel so gross from eating SOOOO much?!!! (How many times THAT day should be the real question!)
How many times do I find myself saying the stupid words “I haven’t eaten anything since lunch- Im STARVING!” when I return home before dinner. Or worse: “I ate so much- I ate like a HORSE!!”
How many times have I taken for granted all the blessings I have been given just to minimize their importance by recklessly talking about “blowing my diet” ….the list goes on and on.
ONE day of children performing their “Good Deeds” and the most powerful impact was on ME.
Hmmm. I truly thought about this – (at least until lunchtime) – and humbly reconsidered HOW I will speak about food and diet and health on an ongoing basis.
I have to admit, my own selfish thought process DID bring to mind the Larry David episode (what part of my life ISN’T a Larry David episode I ask you??) when Larry hosted a Passover seder and invited his father’s Holocaust survivor friend and -without realizing it- his Rabbis “Survivor” friend (the one from the popular TV show) and the two had a face off on who really had it worse???!!….the Holocaust “Survivor” that had to sleep in a concentration camp and have no food rations for months or the TV show “Survivor” who had no gym or snacks for 42 days! THE HORROR!!!
“Im a survivor!” No, Im a survivor!”
and now, for your entertainment, click here: