When I first started working as a professional I was told whatever you do don't cry, It makes you look like such a girl and you won't be taken seriously.
I tried really hard and have never shed a tear in meetings or tense situations but I have to admit that with my job I cry all the time. I can't help it. I'm so moved by people's stories, their generosity and the programs we support.
Needless to say I went to Israel with a healthy supply of tissues. I started tearing up when we arrived at the airport when I saw the Mezuzah on the entrance to the terminal from the plane. Being in Israel for me is always overwhelming on so many levels. .I promise I'm not going to list every moment of being phaklempt but I do need to share one story.
We were in our partnership region (that I'll write about in another blog) and meet with one of JCFs grantees, a group called SAHI..
We met outside a park in a parking lot and sat on pillows and blankets around a bonfire. Young men in there 20s and 30s began telling us about the program which is aimed at at helping at risk youth who roam the streets after dark.
These young men set up the bonfire a few months ago and waited until the youth came to check them out. In a surprising twist the young men didn't start telling the kids about programs they could get involved with. .they asked for help.
The youth were surprised. ."How can we help you? "
"We are looking for families who need food..and we don't know who they are. .we are hoping you can help us. "
The kids were intrigued and started thinking. .and they started suggesting families that they knew needed help.
The young men took it one step further. . "Would you be willing to help us deliver the food? But it has to be secret so we need you to put the food in front of the door and then knock and run away so they don't know who is bringing the food. If they don't answer knock again and hide until you know they have their box. "
The kids were hooked. In just two months there are 15 youth who show up every week to help. They are starting to come up with more families that need food, so now the leaders are teaching the young volunteers how to talk to business owners about making donations.
The kids are opening up. One shared that he wants his life to be different and that he was scared about an upcoming court appointment. The organizers went to court with him and the judge gave him leniency because of his involvement with SAHI.
They give the kids dog tags that say "The greatest good is to do for others."
And the families who are receiving the food? They are overwhelmed. One youth reported that as he was running away after knocking on a door he heard a young boy through the doing say "Mommy, Mommy, it's the food angels!"
Oh damn, I need a tissue....
Tracy Salkowitz is a Consultant,activist and the former CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona.