Hey all you do-gooders out there, this one is for you. Sunday, March 10th is Good Deeds Day – 24 hours straight devoted to making the world a better place, with good deeds big and small.
Founded in 2007 by Shari Arison, an Israeli businesswoman, philanthropist, and catalyst for positive change, Good Deeds Day is celebrated by 30 countries around the world. Last year, more than 250,000 people joined together in Israel and worldwide to organize service projects from volunteering with senior citizens, cleaning up beaches and park, and renovating local community centers. And the movement is growing.
If you live in the Washington DC area, you can join the University of Maryland Hillel in their celebration of Good Deeds Day. They have a jam-packed day planned including a phone-a-thon for Hillel, an environmental garden group activity (where they’ll make raised beds, build a fence, and begin seeding and planting), a panel on homelessness, a 5k run in Baltimore to benefit Yahel, and more! Find out more info on their Facebook event page.
If you live elsewhere, check out founder Shari Arison talking about last year’s Good Deeds Day below. Then, plug in to find out how you can be a part of the good deeds movement in your neighborhood!
Lena Dunham being interviewed at Fortune's Most Powerful Women conference in 2012. Photo by Fortune Live Media via cc.
She may or may not be the “voice of her generation,” but in the last year, Lena Dunham certainly has become a national sensation – not to mention a role model for girls and women (and men too) around the country. The 26-year old (half Jewish, by-the-by) writer, director and star of the HBO smash-hit series Girls has been widely celebrated for her awkwardly honest portrayal of the lives of post-college gals (and some guys) seeking their identities – and in many cases employment – in a post-recession New York City.
Girls has also sparked its fair share of controversy, from the many “layers” of Lena we see, to some critics’ claims that Dunham is narcissistic, that her show is exclusionary and too narrowly focused on the tiny subset of the young and the privileged.
And yet, you gotta give Dunham credit for doing her thing. Whether or not you like the show, or like the choices Dunham makes as a writer and actor, there is no question that she is making history as a fierce, fearless and funny woman. So in light of Women’s History Month - a month dedicated to honoring our shared history’s fierce and fearless women – we’re taking a look at Dunham’s social change track record. All in all, we think she’s pretty worth celebrating.
She’s a serious business woman. Privileged background or not, Dunham is an admirably hard worker. In addition to writing, directing and acting in Girls, she has also produced a full-length film (Tiny Furniture) and is hard at work on a new book of essays. She also just signed on to help create yet another HBO show. With so much success already under her belt and no sign of slowing down, it’s no wonder that Dunham was a featured presenter at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit last year.
She’s funny! (And not only because the Shoshana character dropped a reference to Camp Ramah). Dunham’s humor feels familiar to us. It’s silly, self-deprecating and a little bit lewd…and she even used her talents to write/perform a Purim Speil at this year’s Jewish Museum Purim Ball! But, most importantly, it’s boundary pushing. Dunham uses humor to tell the truths about the world as she sees them. We can’t think of a better use of comedy.
She promotes healthy body image. Dunham has received lots of criticism about baring her less-than-model-thin body on television. But in doing so, she offers an alternative to the “size 0 box” promoted as the ideal standard for women by the media. Dunham is comfortable in her own skin, and has helped broaden the scope of what we consider normal and beautiful. We think that’s pretty cool.
She ushered the late Nora Ephron’s feminist brilliance into a new generation. When acclaimed writer and director Nora Ephron passed away last year, Dunham wrote a beautiful eulogy for her in The New Yorker. When referencing Ephron’s movie, “This is My Life,” Dunham wrote: “I loved whoever was making these actresses comfortable enough to express the minutiae of being a human woman onscreen.” Dunham’s must-read piece evokes a vision of Ephron that goes beyond her well-known works – like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle etc. – and evokes the powerful, game-changing woman she was.
She stands up for what’s right. Dunham and her boyfriend, musician Jack Anonoff have publicly stated that they do not want to get married until all same-sex couples are legally able to marry as well. While Dunham is hardly the first celebrity to make the claim, we admire her outspokenness and her support for equal marriage rights for all. She’s also well known for being very open on social media, engaging with fans and followers about causes that resonate with her, or issues she is passionate about. Dunham also responds well to the oft-negative response that comes with being so transparent and available to the public. For example, one recent incident involving comedian Lisa Lampanelli sparked widespread negative-outcry, yet Dunham handled the reactions with great tact and poise.
What do you think? Is Dunham a worthy role model worth celebrating, or too hyped for her own good? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or by tweeting @repairtheworld.
Also, be sure to check out what some of our favorite Women’s Empowerment Organizations are doing for Women’s History Month!
Israel Teaching Fellow Jesse Berkowitz reading with a student in Rehovot. Photo courtesy of Jesse Berkowitz.
When Jesse Berkowitz graduated from The College of Wooster last year, he knew two things: 1. he wanted to travel and 2. he wanted to make a difference. These two passions led him to Ma’ase Olam’s Israel Teaching Fellows – a 10-month service-learning program, that enables college graduates to help close the achievement gap in Israel’s educational system by volunteering in the country’s schools.
Halfway through the program, which began back in August, Jesse has realized both of his goals. He took some time to talk with Repair the World about his background with service, how a biology major ended up teaching English in Israel (and loving it), and the joys of singing with his students.
What was your background with volunteering before Israel Teaching Fellows?
I first got involved in high school with the community service club, and became president of the club my last two years. We would volunteering with different local organizations – helping out with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at a local nursing home, or working with underprivileged youth. In college, I shifted my focus towards agricultural volunteering. I lived in my college’s organic farming house, where the students would all go volunteer on nearby farms. It was great because we got to get outside of the liberal arts college bubble.
How did you find the Israel Teaching Fellows program, and what compelled you to join?
I visited Israel for the first time with my family three years ago and, as cheesy as it sounds, I fell in love with the country as many people do. I loved the idea of coming back to live here after school, but wanted to find a meaningful way to do it. I found the program while I was Googling things to do in Israel. I began checking out the blogs of people who had down the program before, and getting in touch with a few of them to learn about their experience. There are so many teach English programs around the world, but this seemed like a particularly good fit.
Tell me more about the volunteering you do?
I volunteer as an English assistant in an elementary school. I serve as someone who can help the teacher by taking children out of the classroom for individual and small group instruction. Israeli classrooms tend to be overcrowded – having 40 children in one class is not uncommon. So taking some of the kids out calms things down, and allows for more individual attention. We mostly do reading and writing work, but if I have a small group, sometimes it’s nice to spend an hour just speaking with them in English. I try to get them talking about things that are relevant to their lives, or what music and television shows they like. If they are excited about talking in English, they end up trying harder to learn it, which helps them down the line.
I also teach them about one song a month. Right now I’m teaching them the words to Over the Rainbow, and I taught them a Maccabeats song around Hanukkah. They also wrote a school play and are goign to be performing that soon.
Are you involved with any extracurricular volunteering?
Almost everyone in our group has gotten involved with some kind of extracurricular community serve. Some participants are working in after school sports programs, or arts programs. I work in a community gardening group. We just started planting the garden at a community center in Rehovot. There are a bunch of gardening boxes and each one belongs to a family. It’s been great to get involved with agriculture again.
What’s been the most challenging thing about the program?
It has been challenging to adjust to Israeli school culture, which is much more laid back than American schools. Schedules aren’t necessarily adhered to, and it can be frustrating to come in with the hope of achieving everything on a list, and then things just don’t happen. But it’s been a fun challenge – I’ve learned that you have to just go with the flow.
It can also be challenging when I’m working with kids who know very little English. I’m learning Hebrew, but my Hebrew is currently very lacking – so it can be hard to communicate in those situations. At first I didn’t realize now it would work, but it somehow works itself out. It’s obviously easier to work with students who already know how to read in English, but I think it’s been important to work with both kinds of students.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of the program?
The teachers are constantly telling me how appreciative they are, so that’s nice to hear. The kids have also taken to me really well. It’s nice to walk into school and have a bunch of kids run up and say, “Jesse, good morning!” It’s great to have become part of the school’s community, and to really feel at home. It’s not always easy to see the progress the kids are making, but sometimes you see how well someone is reading, and you think about where they were at a few months back, and that reminds me of why I’m doing this.
Created by the Jewish Theological Seminary in partnership with AVODAH, USY, and the National Ramah Commission, JustCity is a brand-spanking new pre-college summer program that offers the opportunity to deepen Jewish learning, live on a college campus, strengthen leadership skills, learn from change-makers in every field, and be a hands-on part of advancing service and social justice.
JustCity’s Director, Aliyah Vinikoor, filled us in about this innovative and exciting summer opportunity. Find out more, and learn how to apply (before May 1) below!
How did the JustCity program come about?
Tikkun Olam is really woven into JTS’ mission as a school. We already have a Fellowship in Jewish social entrepreneurship, which is a year long intensive program for students who want to develop the skills they need to go into Jewish service and leadership. That’s a program that helps our students cultivate a connection between social action and Jewish identity. More recently we realized that high schoolers are also participating in this work, and have a desire to put their passion for Jewish social justice into action – but don’t necessarily have a forum to develop leadership and organizing skills. We developed JustCity as a pre-college summer program to provide that.
What are the what/when/where/why/who specifics of the program?
The program will run for the month of July, and is meant for Jewish high school students going into their junior or senior years. They will live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and get a good sense of college life. In the mornings they’ll take a text-based course on social action. These classes will be taught by leaders in the social justice field, and will lay the ground work for the work they do later in the day. In the afternoon they’ll volunteer for organizations that do environmental work, community organizing, work with the elderly, work with kids, and work in many other fields.
What about social time and down time?
For our launch year, which is this year, we’re hoping to have a small cohort of 25-50 participants, so that we can really build community. In the evenings a couple times a week they will have a formal dinner with a JTS professor or a leader in the Jewish social justice community. There will also be field trips, fun excursions like going to a Mets game or going fishing in Central Park, networking opportunities, and a lot of free time for them to just explore the city independently. We’ll also offer a college prep component with skills based classes in how to write an essay or resume, how to put together a portfolio or start a job search.
How can people apply? Applications are up online right now. The deadline is technically May 1, but we’re accepting students on a rolling basis. I’ve been getting a lot of calls and emails from interested students, so there’s a lot of momentum – we’re really excited to see where the first cohort goes!
I’ll admit it. I’ve been a little overtexed lately. Our whole society has been, really. Over-screened, over-GIFed, and over-memed. I’m sort of over it. And so is Reboot, which is why they’re spearheading the National Day of Unplugging on March 1.
Yes, the National Day of Unplugging is on Shabbat, and that’s no coincidence. But before you skip it over and say “I don’t do Shabbat,” or assume that you’re going to be asked not to use elevators or take the subway –pause. Ask yourself: when was the last time you spent a WHOLE day without looking at your cell phone (let alone looking at your cell phone while watching TV and checking Buzzfeed on your laptop)? When was the last time you sat in the same room with your friend or roommate or partner and “spent time together” while you faced separate touch screens – or you were talking, and they weren’t? Tell me that doesn’t piss you off.
That’s why National Day of Unplugging – be it on Shabbat or Sunday or some day next month – is a great idea, and a great excuse. It’s an opportunity to create a personal practice around Shabbat (if that’s what you’re looking for). Or, it’s a chance to avoid your mom’s phone calls, a flood of “urgent” emails from your boss, and endless repeats of Say Yes to the Dress. It’s an excuse to be alone – if it scares you a little – and to remember what it’s like to feel connected to your community…without 3G.
Reboot, an organizations seeking to reinvent Judaism for the modern age,has made a very basic, and very adaptable Sabbath Manifesto to help you get started. It includes things I buy into like: “connect with loved ones” and, “eat bread” (you don’t ever have to ask me twice to indulge in a few extra carbs) – as well as a few tougher sells like, “avoid commerce.”
While it is still likely you will still find me running to the store to pick up a few forgotten ingredients on the National Day of Unplugging or failing to light candles, I’m choosing the practices that are more meaningful challenges for me – like finding silence, or putting away my phone.
Confession: I haven’t spent 24 hours away from my phone since 2003. So I’m actually really excited for the opportunity to tune in – to enjoy scrabble instead of Netflix, a quiet date night at home, or some solo reading time. And if I get to you call that Shabbat, then that’s fine by me
Get ready for Purim with hamantashen, parties, and service!
Purim is the Jewish calendar’s biggest party – a night to get dressed up in awesome costumes, hear the story of Esther (and make lots of noise with a grogger when you hear Haman’s name), eat a bunch of jam-filled pastries called hamentaschen, then get your party on. Every year Jewish communities across the country celebrate the holiday by throwing soirees and staging purim spiels – funny plays meant to put everyone in a happy mood.
But just below the festive surface, Purim is also a holiday that’s all about service. The day includes two specific obligations of direct service: mishloach manot (giving gifts of food to friends) and matanot l’evyonim (giving monetary gifts to the poor). The reasoning? To make sure that everyone’s needs are taken care of on such a festive holiday, and to strengthen community bonds.
To get you into the spirit of Purim this year, we rounded up a bunch of parties and other fun Purim events that will let you celebrate while making a difference:
Feb 15th, Little Neck, NY: Join friends old and new at the Samuel Field Y for their Pack it Up for Purim winter food drive. Bring non-perishable foods to share, and volunteer to deliver them to participating food pantries.
Feb 17, Detroit: Rock out with Moishe House Detroit for an evening of Purim crafting, hamantashen baking, and mishloach manot creating for the local Ronald McDonald house.
Feb 21, Berkeley: Want to make a sustainable mask for your Purim party? Join textile artist Inbal Shalev in making gorgeous masks out of recycled materials.
Feb 23, NYC: Hang out with friends, rock out to the awesome band, Yiddish Princess, watch some extravagant theatre and learn about social issues that are important to NYC at the annual JFREJ Purimshpiel.
Feb 23, Boston: Join the Workmen’s Circle for their 6th annual Radical Purim Party featuring lots of hamantashen, dancing, and political theater to get the party going right.
Feb 23, Los Angeles: Get dressed up and head out to IKAR’s Purim Justice Carnival, which melds the religions and political, the spiritual and the social.
Feb 24, Chicago: After a night of partying, join Moishe House Chicago in preparing mishloach manot for Lydia Home, a community shelter where the residents volunteer every month.
We suspect that we missed a LOT of awesome service and social-justice themed Purim parties out there. Know of one in your neighborhood? Tell us about it in the comments below, or by tweeting us at @repairtheworld.
Mishloach manot is one of the most unexpected of Jewish traditions. Derived from the Book of Esther and literally translated as “sending of portions,” they are the gifts of food we give to friends and family on the holiday of Purim.
Here’s an curious fact about mishloach manot: you HAVE to give food preferably two different items that the recipient of your gift can eat right away. (Hamantashen are a popular item, so are granola bars, raisins, juice boxes, and other edible goodies.)
So why food? Why not money or flowers or a good book? Mishloach manot are given to ensure that every person, wealthy or not, has enough food to enjoy their Purim celebration. In other words, it’s a bit of food justice and equality built right into the holiday! We at Repair the World love the idea of mishloach manot, and were inspired to take this spirit of giving even further. Below, we’ve listed ways to infuse your Purim baskets with the spirit of service even more!
Use fair traded sugar in your hamantashen. The folks at Equal Exchange offer fair trade-certified sugar grown by three co-operatives of small-scale farmers in Paraguay. Make sure to slip in a link to this video about the farmers with your cookies!
Make a donation to Mazon: A Jewish response to hunger or your favorite food justice organization or other charity. Include a note telling the recipients that you donated in their honor.
Make extra mishloach manot and deliver some to friends and family, and the rest to a local Jewish senior center or hospital. The commandment only requires each person to deliver one Purim basket, but the more you give, the more you spread Purim’s happiness!
How do you add the spirit of service and justice to your mishloach manot? Let us know your creative ideas in the comments or by tweeting @repairtheworld.
Elaborate storytelling, gorgeous costumes, plentiful food and drink: these are the components of the Jewish holiday of Purim. So happens, they’re also part of my upcoming Oscar viewing party!
When we read the Megillah on Purim, we retell the story of our protagonists fighting for a community’s survival. This story is powerful, and the oral tradition of Purim comes with remembering the challenges Jewish people once faced, and how those challenges presented a call to action.
Today, we understand the power of retelling stories most commonly through the entertainment industry. Like the Megillah, films share powerful, emotional stories that often mobilize viewers behind a real-life cause. Even this year’s nominated films, utilize storytelling not only to weave a tale of fiction and fantasy, but also to bring substantial and widespread causes to light.
So whether you’ll be dressing up as Esther and eating hamantashen, or kicking back and watching the stars do the dressing up at the 85th Academy Awards, here are some of the Oscar nominees for best picture, the causes that are promoted by their stories, and ways that you can become a service star too:
“If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me.” Lincoln recounts the events and life of the 16th President as he strives to abolish slavery by helping get the 13th amendment passed during the Civil War. While we’ve come far in the journey to equality, themes from this film, such as major human rights violations, are not a thing of the past. Many groups are still subject to the same discrimination and hatred common during Lincoln’s era, but today, hundreds of organizations are working to minimize these injustices. This Purim, consider working with organizations like Human Rights Campaign or Keshet to help combat inequality.
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
The movie-musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic novel has garnered eight Oscar nominations including best actor and supporting actress for Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway respectively. The musical covers MANY themes, the most predominant of which is poverty, evoked through the film’s famous ballads and belted showstoppers. While the story is set in post-revolutionary France, many of the film’s issues are quite prevalent today. Fortunately, those in need are no longer on their own. Groups like UJA Federation in NYC, and The Global Poverty Project work to raise awareness of and fight complex societal issues on a national and global scale by encouraging volunteerism, advocacy and fundraising.
“If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus...”
Argo tells the astounding and unlikely true story of a group of Americans hiding in Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979, and the CIA Agent Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck) who concocted what seemed like a ridiculous plan to help them escape. Mendez was a quiet hero (until now), whose creativity and bravery saved some lives against crazy odds. While CIA missions remain highly classified (and for good reason), we can recognize many other unsung heroes who save lives every day. Organizations like Hometown Heroes and Homes for Heroes help spread accolades and assistance to those who don’t ask for applause, but who most deserve it.
“...you had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.”
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained tells the story of Django (a slave turned bounty hunter) through 2 hours and 45 minutes of classic horror, laughter, discomfort and even some satisfaction. Yet behind the film’s graphic nature, quick wit and vibrant characters lies the deeper issue of the widespread struggle for freedom in late nineteenth century America. It may seem a far stretch from this all-star performance, but slavery still exists in many forms. Slavery Footprint is a nonprofit that works to end modern-day slavery by educating others about the supply lines of consumer products. You can find out how many slaves work for you right now here ...Do we have your attention?
“Things will go on as they have done up until now.”
Devastating and remarkable, Amour is not an easy film to watch. Viewers witness the deterioration of a life, and the mix of care, love, and heartbreak that goes along with it. We can’t control stories like the one depicted in Armour, but what we can control is what we do with the time that we have, and how we spend time with others. Organizations like DOROT and National Council on Aging provide support and companionship. It’s easy and fulfilling to get involved with their mission and with similar local organizations, and volunteers are consistently needed. Things will go on as they have done up until now, but you can positively affect how they continue in the future.
“If you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.”
Silver Linings Playbook is unusual and funny, while equally deep and meaningful, and touts two of this year’s great performances (from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence). Focused on a man with bipolar disorder and a woman with a very different set of challenges, above all else Silver Linings playbook is a story that begs for a timely discussion about stigma and services for the mentally ill. Organizations like Metropolitan Council On Jewish Poverty, and Active Minds strive to not only provide services to those in need, but to help those seeking ways to better understand the challenges faced by their friends and loved ones.
“When you're a small piece of a big puzzle, you gotta fix what you can.”
Unique, disturbing and breathtaking all at once, Beasts of the Southern Wild presents a story of devastation and hope, taking place in a fictional Delta community called “The Bathtub” while residents prepare for an oncoming storm. The film leaves much to be interpreted, but there have been many comparisons to Hurricane Katrina, and the communities left poverty stricken in its wake. The tale leaves audiences with a yearning to learn more about the happenings in real communities post-natural disaster, and what you can do to spread awareness, and help fix what you can. We suggest starting with organizations like Nechama or National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
“Above all...it is important not to lose hope.”
Life of Pi is a visually and emotionally stunning film, the majority of which takes place in the middle of the ocean, in a lifeboat, with no one but a young boy and an adult Bengal Tiger taking up your screen. Even more interesting than the unique story line however is the protagonist's belief system. Pi believes in three religions, and sites his faith in all three (as well as his open mind for ALL religions) as his reason for survival after a devastating shipwreck. The film presents an excellent portrayal of the power of interfaith cooperation, and there are many organizations that YOU can join that promote interfaith discussion and understanding, such as Interfaith Youth Core and Interfaith Appalachia
“It’s 100%. I know certainty freaks you guys out, but it’s 100%.”
Zero Dark Thirty is a fascinating portrayal of war and secret military operatives. No matter your feelings on the film’s contents, historical truths, and politics, the film reminds us (among many things) that, particularly in times of conflict, people are wounded and killed every day. Whether you want to send care packages to soldiers overseas, or help families separated from or having lost a loved one, The The National Resource Directory has a great list of organizations that work with veterans, service members, wounded warriors, and military families.
This Purim, we’ll be watching the stars walk the red carpet at the Academy Awards and honoring the films that support the causes we love…while gearing up for the real stars like you to grab the spotlight by making a difference in your local and global communities.
Purim is Saturday, February 23 -Sunday February 24, 2013 The Oscars air Sunday, February 24, at 7pm Eastern on ABC
Valentine’s Day is no doubt a sappy (and sometimes stressful!) Hallmark holiday. But we think it’s pretty great to have a day entirely devoted to spreading the love. Whether you happen to be head over heels this Valentine’s Day, or fixin’ to head out on the town (or stay in and watch a romcom) with friends – rock Valentine’s Day by showing your love…with service! Here are some easy, last-minute ideas:
Volunteer in someone’s honor. Let your loved one know that you spent an afternoon volunteering with them in mind. Better yet, invite them along and have even more fun while you do good.
Donate to your sweetheart’s favorite cause. Be it saving the rainforest, education reform, or food justice, make a donation to an organization (or two!) they respect. Not only will you help the world, but you will score extra points for knowing them and their passions.
Send your love to a teacher. Let your teacher (or mentor or parent) know you care and appreciate everything they do. Donate your unwanted books to an organization that will recycle or redistribute them, or resell them to raise money for important causes like American Book Drive or Housingworks bookstore.
Buy eco-friendly flowers. If you want to go the traditional route of sending roses or a colorful bouquet, make sure they are fair trade certified, or that some of the money goes to support good causes.
Take someone out to a green and ethical dinner. Have that romantic dinner for two (or fun night out with friends) at a restaurant that has been certified by the Green Restaurant Association, or has Uri L’Tzedek’s Tav Ha’Yosher seal, which means the restaurant treats its workers with dignity.
How are you letting your loved ones know you care this Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments below, or by tweeting us at @repairtheworld.
Love comes in many forms. Whether it’s for a person, an accomplishment, a memory, a pet, we’re excited for the famous upcoming day dedicated to celebrating love in all forms!
Today we’ve created a compilation of stories by Repair the World’s staff that reflect on the things, moments, people, and places from this past year that really made us stop and feel the love! Get to know the people behind Repair, and be sure to share with us what YOU love this Valentine’s Day.
"During the Hurricane, I went against city orders and walked a block outside of my apartment. I saw police officers wading up to their knees in water on First Avenue, working to keep the community safe. The reality facing me, away from the TV sets and radios, struck a chord. It's about a moment when you understand that what you see can be powerful enough to move you to act." - Marci
"This year, my new family through marriage (who don't speak English) made a concerted effort to communicate with me via email despite several failed attempts with online translation services. It truly brought to life the concept that communication isn't only about the written & spoken word…love breaks all barriers, even when you don't speak the same language." - Jacqueline
"I <3 NY! Having lived here my whole life, it can seem like nothing can shock you. However, I honestly continue to find new activities, people, and places every day that surprise me, and inspire me to continue to explore. A great example of this inspiration is the blog "Humans of New York" which captures a handful of the interesting stories this city is made up of, and provides my daily dose of inspiration and encouragement to stand out in a crowd." -Danielle
"Earlier this winter I accompanied three thirteen-year-olds for the afternoon, as they delivered packaged food to an elderly woman. Desperately, they searched for common conversation topics, as one ordinarily rambunctious teen yelled out the names of sports she MUST have played… "Basketball? Soccer? How 'bout shuffleboard?" "Well I did used to play golf," she said as his face lit up. "GOLF! Now that's a great sport! Putt-putt or regular?" There's no age limit on true friendship." - Amy
In September, my boyfriend told me that his favorite part of Thanksgiving is having everyone he loves in one place, and he wanted me to have that, too – so he was inviting my whole family to his parents house. After I put aside my fears of our parents meeting each other (was this the right time?!), my mom, my dad, and my step mom flew 3,000 miles to New York so we could all be together. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people whose common denominator is their love for you, and for both of us! - Sophia
I have always aspired to help people reach for the stars and jump for joy. This took on an unprecedentedly literal meaning when I was tasked with making the most important legislative decision of my life. (Yes, more important than the theme of the 2000 High School Prom. Yes, it was Under the Sea.) Trampolines were at risk of extinction. At least of being zoned out of existence. At least in front and side yards in Huntington Woods, Michigan. In my capacity as a member of the Huntington Woods zoning board of appeals, I deliberated with my fellow board members and considered the deep philosophical implications of the code interpretation. Is a trampoline more like an ice rink or an adirondack chair? After what felt like hours of heated discussion, replete with doe-eyed children and curmudgeonly old people, I was honored and humbled to cast the deciding vote in a 4-3 decision to let the children (and adults who still act like children) jump another day. - Ben
"My cousin co-founded a non-profit that donates bikes to kids in low-income communities for the holidays. Seeing him in action not only made me proud of him, but also reminded me that my dedication to service and volunteering is something that was passed along through my grandparents who have modeled the spirit of giving to my entire family." - Aaron
"This year, a few things I loved: 1 - being reminded that while it's awesome that art and design sometimes try to re-create nature, nature still kinda rocks it out 2 that New Yorkers learned about communities outside their own zip code as they came together over Hurricane Sandy (that shook my hometown) 3-remembering that biking beats a taxi any day, and 4-that I avoided another year using the term "totes" when not referring to a bag." - Dara
"Over the summer, I traveled to Turkey with an incredible group of strangers from various background and had the unique opportunity to learn about the Turkish culture from an insider point of view. Through it all, I developed a new found appreciation of meeting new people, sharing proud experiences and walking away with a new understanding of cultural diversity!" - Aria
"This summer I was at Euro 2012 in Wroclaw, Poland with my brother. The fan zone for the Russia – Poland match was so full that you could not see the massive screens setup throughout. The whole city shut down to watch and the celebrations when Poland scored are something I will never forget." - Siobhan