6 november

there is no pretty picture with this post.  just words.  it's election day, and the choices feel - more than usual - enormous.  as though we're charting a course for the future.  i am on pins and needles as we wait.  and so today, just words.

words like tzedakah, which in hebrew means righteousness or justice, and in the common vernacular often means charity.  words like mitzvah, which in hebrew means commandment, and in common vernacular often means good deed.  words like chesed, which in hebrew means kindness, and which we don't much use in everyday english.

. . . . . . . .

my kids receive a small allowance each month.  it's not much, but we hope it will teach them something about handling money, saving and spending.  on (or around!) the first of each month, we give each of the kids dollar bills that they divide into three envelopes - spend, save, tzedakah.  "spend" for those immediate must-haves that i just won't buy any more of (read: magic cards and chapstick), "save" for the things they dream about, and "tzedakah" to help those in need.  i love this in theory, but it's not entirely well executed - the tzedakah envelope in particular, which tends to go one of two ways: in dribs and drabs to hebrew school on sunday mornings, or collected periodically as part of a family effort to support some cause close to our hearts.  it's less than ideal, and i regret that i don't do a better job of empowering them to identify needs or causes close to their own hearts, that i don't help them to chart their own course when it comes to tzedakah, mitzvah, and chesed.

on monday afternoon, i handed out november allowance.  the kids divided their dollars among their envelopes and we did a little counting, taking stock.  

i have been fairly well obsessed with the effects of hurricane sandy.  my twitter feed, the new york times, facebook, my google reader, my heart and my mind.  

i know that there's suffering all over the world and also much closer to home, but i can't shake this feeling that it could have been us.  or someone we love.  i have dear ones who are still without power and heat, and that's the least of it.  i had to explain to my kids why feminie hygiene products and pet food are on the list of needed supplies - so foreign is this kind of devastation to them.  and i am so thankful.

and yet.  here i sit, 200 miles to the south, in my warm home with light and food and my children tucked safely in their own beds with their own winter jackets hanging by the door.  feeling thankful, feeling helpless, feeling inspired by the action of so many.  wondering.  what would i be doing to help if i lived in new york?  or if this tragedy had struck baltimore?  and what will i do now, today, from here?

we did some shopping yesterday afternoon after the allowance counting.  each child took some dollars from their envelope labeled tzedakah and a list of supplies being collected by a local synagogue (not ours).  i matched the kids' money with the same amount of my own, and each child purchased supplies to be delivered to new york later this week.  she chose diapers and wipes, he chose pet food and peanut butter.  i felt humbled.  and proud.  and a little bit less helpless last night.