Each one of us can do a good deed, every day and everywhere. In hospitals in desperate need of volunteers, in homes for the elderly where our parents and grandparents are longing for a smile, a listening ear, in the street, in our workplaces and especially at home. Good deeds turn the world into a better, more pleasant place; yet, despite all this, we're not always willing or able to devote the energy to doing something good for others. The good inside of all of us is wrapped in a layer of apathy and we forget how much potential we have within us, in each and every one of us, to change the world for the better for ourselves and our children, and thus to bring about oneness.
About five years ago, I initiated Good Deeds Day in Israel. My initiative was based on my firm belief that every person can give something of himself to others, can contribute to the community in which he or she lives. The idea succeeded, took root, and continued to grow in subsequent years; indeed, on last year's Good Deeds Day, held in March 2010 under the auspices of the Arison Group's Ruach Tova (Good Spirit) nonprofit, more than 70,000 (!) people got up and went out to do a good deed for someone else. All in all, some 1,000 projects took place throughout Israel.
Also last year, the initiative became universal: Thousands of people in the United States, Ukraine and Britain volunteered to do a good deed and experienced the privilege and the pleasure inherent in doing good for others.
I visited some of the projects in Israel last year, and I was deeply moved by the giving, the caring and the goodwill of the people who opened their hearts to the needs and distress of others.
There is something especially heartening and moving about people who turn their talents into a means of doing good deeds. That's the story of a hairdresser named Ilan. He simply volunteered to give haircuts to children from families in economic distress. "Giving a beautiful haircut -- that's the thing I know how to do best. And if I can use this talent to do a good deed, I've profited," he explains. When the children look in the mirror after Ilan has cut their hair, they smile in delight -- and that smile is the greatest reward he could ever want.
Odelia, a retiree living in Tel Aviv, has been volunteering for several years by making birthday cakes for children with special needs. "I was always good at baking cakes," she says. "I go to the children's center and ask each child to describe the birthday cake of their dreams. Every one of them has a 'dream cake' -- their own particular flavor, shape and colors. I bake the cakes according to each child's 'order' and this makes them very happy. This is the small bit I can do and every day I'm grateful for my ability to contribute to a place where they really need me and to bring joy to others."
Ruthie Sobel Luttenberg also understands that a birthday is a marvelous opportunity to bring joy to children that fate has not smiled upon, so she founded a nonprofit association called Birthday Angels. "The 'Angels' come to the homes of children in underprivileged neighborhoods, equipped with a birthday kit that includes games and activities, music, decorations, prizes and surprises," Ruthie says. "They spread light and happiness in the homes of those in need, and the Angels themselves enjoy the unique delight that comes only from giving of yourself to others."
There's no shortage of ideas and projects, and we're not talking about ventures that require big budgets. All you need is the desire to do good. I believe with all my heart that doing a good deed is the choice of each and every one of us, but it's also a privilege. Every year I am excited anew when I see the thousands of people who come out of their homes to devote their time and talents to doing good, earning an immediate reward in the form of the spark of joy illuminating the eyes of the recipients.
This year, Good Deeds Day will take place on Tuesday, April 5, in Israel, and on Sunday, April 3, in other countries. I believe and hope that this year the number of volunteers will reach 100,000 in Israel, and many thousands of others around the world.
And the more that Good Deeds Day crosses the border of Israel and spreads to more countries around the globe, reaching ever-expanding numbers of people, our world will become a better place, for us and for our children.
Thus, as Good Deeds Day approaches, I call upon each and every one of you: Please, think of a good deed, something that will improve the life of someone else and bring them happiness. I know that doing a good deed will also improve your lives and bring you happiness in the knowledge that you contributed toward making the world a better place for us, for our children and for every creature on Earth.
Follow Shari Arison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Birth_Arison