By Hillel Zand, South Peninsula Jewish Teen Foundation Board Member
This post originally appeared on Hillel’s blog, American Jewish Teen.
As a board member of the South Peninsula Jewish Teen Foundation, I am currently at the halfway point in a yearlong process to make a difference. Sounds tough, right? The SPJTF creates a mission statement at the beginning of the year, researches nonprofits that match the mission statement, fundraise, and finally allocate money to deserving organizations at the end of the year. This past Sunday, we took a little field trip to one of Shelter Network’s locations, First Step for Families, which assists homeless families on getting back on their feet by providing a safe shelter for parents and their children, as well as vocational services and therapy.
It wasn’t my first time volunteering for Shelter Network, but this time was, by far, the most moving. After we had served dinner to residents and played with some of the kids, a couple of families came and shared their stories with our board, but one family’s story stuck with me the most.
A middle-aged single mom with three kids who had gone through a rough divorce with a drug-addicted husband and was forced to choose between medical attention for her slipped disk or shelter for herself and her kids. When one of our board members asked what she would change or improve about the shelter, she replied with the humblest thing one could say. She said, “Absolutely nothing. Shelter Network has changed my life so much for the better and I couldn’t ask for anything more from the staff that go out of their way to help me and my kids.” I was shocked when I heard that, because honestly, I was expecting complaints about the food or maybe the fact that she had to share a floor with 11 other families, but no. The fact that she was totally content with her life at that moment was something that I tremendously applaud. It donned on me during that moment that what she did for her kids was maybe not the easiest choice, but it ended up being the right choice. Her 12-year-old daughter nearly brought me to tears as she herself was sobbing while expressing gratitude for everything that the shelter had provided for her. Battling her tears, she said, “I’ve been through a lot in my life, and the therapy that they’ve provided me here has helped… so much.” And she, too, reinforced what her mother said: going to Shelter Network was maybe a harder choice than her family choice being split up by staying with relatives, but it was ultimately the best thing that ever happened to them, as it kept them together as one family.
“I’m trying to show appreciation towards my parents more than I have before for the sacrifices they make each and every day for me and my brothers.”
Those 4 hours at Shelter Network, especially those 20 minutes talking with Shelter Network families, really opened my eyes to the sacrifices parents make every single day. Everything parents do, I learned, is done with their children in mind, and that is something I could not respect enough. That night, I returned home thinking, “Sorry Imma (Mom), sorry Abba (Dad) for doubting what you say and do, but you know what, you were probably right.” It’s tough at my age to realize that and admit defeat to those that brought you into this world, but now, I’m trying to show appreciation towards my parents more than I have before for the sacrifices they make each and every day for me and my brothers.