This past Sunday I joined more than 200 community members who volunteered at the 4th annual Tikkun 4 Troops event. As one big team, we assembled over 5,000 care packages for active duty troops currently deployed in harm’s way. The event was a seamless collaboration of NextGen (the young adult department of Jewish Federation & Family Services), Operation Gratitude, JCC Cares, community organizations, congregations, and the community members who donated goods and funds to purchase items to fill these packages.
One of the things that makes Tikkun 4 Troops extra special is that people volunteer in service to those who serve all of us, our U.S. troops. The sacrifice of being so far from friends and family and facing danger to protect our freedoms cannot be underestimated. Their service truly deserves the utmost respect and honor.
I overheard a conversation at the event that really touched my heart. A gentleman in his 70s and his wife approached Aaron Schilleci, the Chair of Tikkun 4 Troops and himself an active duty military officer. With tears in his eyes, the man shared that no one did for him or his fellow troops in the Vietnam War what Tikkun 4 Troops does now. He was so grateful to be there for today’s troops in a way he wishes he would have been cared for when he served our country.
Service itself is really an extraordinary concept – and an important Jewish value to imbue in our younger generations. It is the idea that we can all contribute to Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World) no matter how big or small our effort. Some serve by volunteering time and some serve by contributing goods to a cause. But is the active step of engaging in something outside of ourselves that matters. As Albert Einstein famously said, “Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living.”
Of course, service is not just a one-way street. Service opportunities make a difference to those who receive the help -- and they help shape the volunteers themselves. Volunteering increases our sense of worth and self-confidence, builds empathy, and strengthens social bonds.
So, I invite you to join us in repairing the world! You can share meals with Holocaust survivors as a JFFS Meal Partner, drive seniors and people with disabilities to medical appointments as a Silver Streak transportation volunteer driver, or be part of Women’s Philanthropy’s Mitzvah Mavens. Learn more at JewishOC.org/Volunteer. JCC Cares, the JCC’s social action team, also has monthly volunteer events for young and old, including special events that are designed specifically with families in mind. Whatever your interest or ability, there are opportunities to serve.