Tikkun Olam: It’s Easier Than You Think! – Written by Abigail Dickstein
Tikkun Olam (תיקון עולם) translates to “repair of the world.” It is an important value in Judaism, able to be seen through the pursuit of social action work and social justice. When thinking about social action as a whole, it can be overwhelming! One may think, “I’m only one person, surely it’s impossible for me to make even the slightest difference.” Well only one person, I have news for you! It surely is not impossible, in fact, it is very doable. One person can make all the difference in the world to another. Take this old man for example.
There was once a young man that was walking along the ocean. He saw a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish had washed ashore. Further along he saw an old man, walking slowly and stopping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asked. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out, and if I don’t throw them further in the water they will die.” “But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it!? You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.” The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
There are many simple and relatively easy ways for you to make a difference in your community. Though they don’t necessarily involve , here are five ideas to get you started:
- Gemilut chasadim, acts of loving kindness, throughout the day is a great way to start! Offer to help your teacher clean up, or pick up trash that isn’t yours. Compliment someone on their outfit, be kind. You can make someone’s day much brighter by just being kind and considerate.
- Utilize your synagogue and school! Those are easy connections directly at your fingertips. You could offer help to set up for a shabbat dinner at Temple every Friday, or tutor someone that’s having trouble at school.
- Connect to organizations through your synagogue or school! It is more than likely that your Temple or school has existing relationships with a handful of local organizations and could easily get you into contact with a representative.
- Reach out to your beloved, annual summer camp! This is a great way to spend more time at your home-away-from-home. You know more than anyone that there is always something that needs to be done at camp, offer to be someone that gets it done!
- Ask your parents! Believe it or not, your parents are great resources. They’ve been around a bit longer than you and have made a few connections here and there.
The above ideas are just five simple ways in which you can get involved. Keep in mind that there are countless amounts of opportunities for you, you just have to ask for them. I wish you the best of luck in your volunteering endeavors! Just remember that “whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1, 22a) You alone may not be able to change the whole world, but you can make a difference in many people’s lives, and that’s certainly a start.