As parents, we work hard to ensure our children grow up to be compassionate, kind, and productive members of the community. In a city where homelessness and poverty are part of one’s daily commute, I often fear becoming desensitized and have struggled with how to model compassion, kindness, and action for our kids when we know we can’t help every person we see.
Volunteering at CHIPS and the Recovery House through New York Families Give Back with my 9-year-old daughter has allowed me to show her the power a group can have in supporting others. We have volunteered through NYFGB on a regular basis since she was six, with a goal of once a month. Since then, she has helped serve hundreds, learning the importance and role of the community in helping those in need. At CHIPS’ Saturday lunches, we have cut bread for serving, rolled silverware and napkins, decorated tables, poured juice, and prepared to-go food bags. These are simple, yet necessary tasks in which she takes great pride. At Recovery House’s Food Pantry, we have bagged grocery items on an assembly line (sometimes at great speed, evoking the scene of Lucy and Ethel furiously wrapping chocolates!) and distributed to those who come. Greeting and being thanked by patrons fosters a connection, putting faces to the food insecurity that is often invisible on our daily commutes.
When asked why she likes to volunteer, my daughter replied, “I like to do it because I want to help people who may not have enough to eat.” Pretty simple.
I am so thankful to Amy Lehr for founding New York Families Give Back and to CHIPS and Recovery House the wonderful work they’re doing every day in Brooklyn. Being part of their work has provided me and my daughter with the spark and natural opportunity to discuss difficult but deeply important topics such as mental illness, hunger, homelessness, how people may find themselves in such circumstances, and most importantly – the compassion, kindness, and service incumbent upon us all.
- Kajal Patel Below, Brooklyn, NY 5/30/17