Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why the Birthday Project is More than Just a Project

Many of you have commented on my facebook page and "liked" some of the status updates associated with "The Birthday Project," which I discovered recently. This woman is a walking "lamplighter" and mitzvah maker. However, it is clear though that the concept of doing 41 random acts on my birthday, there is much more significance for me beyond the random concept of giving.

It is when we give, we truly have the potential to make the greatest impact. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we get so caught up in our busy lives that we lose sight of the moment and the infinite possibilities.

I took on the Birthday Gift project from a place where I finally felt comfortable with my surroundings. That I could say I belong to a community. But it hasn't always been this way.

In a small community such as ours, you need to grow roots. Redefine connection – not be afraid to ask for help. But it's not always easy, especially when you feel the strong relationships of other younger women to their mothers.

Through giving, I am creating a "new archetype" for motherhood. I can't rely on a mother figure because that's just not going to happen. And not rely on other people to fill in the gaps. By giving, I create my own "new reality" - my own catalyst for change.

Having a reason to give makes it also easier to bond with strangers. But when you have a reliable support system, you don't always need to think outside the box, because "the box" is always there.

In a new community, your friends are your family.

By helping the blind person cross the street this afternoon or taping coins to the vending machine or mailbox, I am sending a message to myself that the "unfamiliar" is slightly less "unfamiliar."

That it IS possible to find a connection.

That it IS possible to feel less of a "stranger."

That there ARE other options to this "strangerhood" to help me cope with the isolation.

That I CAN find my tribe after many years of living in Israel where I HAD my own tribe and support system.

Through giving, my world view is shifting. My attitude used to be: “people pay more attention to you when you put up an emotional, needy or suffering mode."

Not anymore.

I was determined to put away those voices that made me feel “small.” And in a diverse setting, this can be tricky. It’s so easy to feel isolated and unappreciated. The streets are wide and lonely. Everybody has their own culture, language, TV and SUV.

But not me. I'm part of a universal dimension that goes beyond the computer screen.

When I first came to Pittsburgh, I knew full well, that I had a big challenge of emotional and social isolation to overcome, but I didn't realize how HARD it would be.

When I go for example, to someone else’s house here – they speak so much more “connectedly.” The families that hosted us in the beginning wanted us to feel at home so badly, but they didn't realize (and still don't) how isolated I felt. I still feel lost, empty, sad. Even though we were blessed with abundance the minute we arrived, I still thought "lack" or "empty” thoughts.

There was one thing I needed to build that was missing from my environment – trust.

So today, I put outside two BIG bags of canned and boxed goods. Since we don't have a car to bring it anywhere, that was the only viable soltuion. So I just grabbed the two bags and brought them downstairs. We weren't using them anyhow. When I came back an hour later from reading stories to my son's classroom, the bags were gone.

I saw one man carrying the clear through plastic bag with some perishables. The ones I just left on the street. I quickly passed him, and said nothing. I sized him up. He spoke Russian.

And for a moment, I felt "the community" just spoke to me.

It was the first time that my presence rubbed off me and unto somebody else in such a short and fleeting moment. Could it be some kind of impact?

"It seems," I thought. "People are hungry all over. People need to be nourished. People need a voice - not just food."

I know I can get excited when I see something I want and it's free.

But I also can appreciate the feeling that there is somebody outside who is "thinking of me."

Now it's MY Turn.

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