Philanthropy Friday (rewind): 1,000 Mitzvahs

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.

The following post was originally published on JUNE 29, 2012.

1,000 Mitzvahs I just finished the book 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire and Change your Life by Linda Cohen.

Linda graciously sent me a copy after seeing an inquiry I posted looking for stories for my Philanthropy Friday series. She noted that the book might be a fit with my work. She was right.

The book is about a project she took on after the death of her father. She set out to perform 1,000 mitzvahs in her father’s memory. She tells me “though a mitzvah is actually a commandment in Judaism, it has also become synonymous for doing acts of kindness. The book is inspiring others to take on their own mitzvah projects both individually and as communities.”

In fact, Linda has been getting wonderful reviews for the book and was recently featured in the national spotlight on Fox’s show called “Better TV.”

Linda didn’t set out to change the world. She simply wanted to perform acts of kindness to honor her father. She found that the cumulative effect of the project not only helped her in her grieving, it also made a huge positive impact on her life.

I really enjoyed reading the book. It’s a pretty quick read and covers the various mitzvahs she completed after her father died. Each chapter has a different theme – food, volunteer work, donations, environmental conscience, birthdays, death and grieving, etc. – and includes short stories about the mitzvahs performed.

The neat thing is that just about anyone can complete these simple acts of kindness. Throughout the project, Linda observed how easy it was to do good deeds and to notice when others do good deeds as well. She chronicled her mitzvahs on her blog and continues to post daily mitzvahs on her Facebook page.

A few of my favorite examples included making sure that the next person in the public bathroom has toilet paper, using reusable bags on vacation, recognizing someone who has done a good job, taking the time to send handwritten notes to thank people, and telling someone how they have affected you. Simple stuff that we can do every day and will put a smile on other people’s faces.

I loved the fact that her husband and kids got into the project as well, even discussing whether or not certain acts even counted as a mitzvah. And you could see how the project helped the entire family give more.

By the way, this is not a religious book, and you certainly don’t need to be Jewish to appreciate it. Not being Jewish myself, I found that I actually learned quite a bit about the traditions of Judaism. An added bonus I didn’t expect.

I’ve often noted on this blog that performing small good deeds can make a big impact on another person’s life. They can also help you feel happier. The more I explore the concept of philanthropy and the ways in which we all can contribute, the more I think about doing these simple acts of kindness in everyday life. Or, “spontaneous kindness” as Linda described in her book.

Just the other night, my husband and I were out having a drink of wine, enjoying the fact that we had a babysitter for a short time. It was getting later, and we were the last people in the restaurant. We were sitting in the bar area at a table. When we were all ready to leave, my husband picked up our glasses and set them on the bar. He only walked a few feet, but a man who also worked at the restaurant, looked at us in disbelief and said, “Wow. Thanks.”

He didn’t have to bring our dirty glasses to the bar, and most people wouldn’t even think to do this. But my husband took the extra few seconds to walk a few extra feet and save the waitstaff a little bit of time in the clean up process. Not a huge act, but you could tell it was very much appreciated by the staff.

And all I could think was, “Hey, we just performed a mitzvah!”

What mitzvah, or simple act of kindness, will you perform today?

Philanthropy Friday: Somebody’s Daughter

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.

This following article is a guest post from Susan Allen Panzica.

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It started with a dream – a nightmare really. A vivid dream that my daughter (who was living in Australia at the time) was abducted by human traffickers. I grabbed my phone and immediately texted my daughter. Finally the ping of her text reply. “I’m fine Mom. What’s up?”

The flood of relief as I sank into the pillows and prayed “Thank God it wasn’t my daughter” was immediately replaced by the awareness that it was somebody’s daughter.

Somebody’s daughter was abducted and sold into slavery that night. Somebody’s daughter ran away and was sucked into the web of human trafficking. Somebody’s daughter was brainwashed to think there was no hope, no way out. Somebody’s daughter was being used for profit and the salacious enjoyment of men in a dark and evil underworld. Somebody’s daughter was silently crying out for justice.

That night, across the world and in my own state of New Jersey, people of all ages, colors, and genders were being held against their will, their passports held by unscrupulous “employers,” working as nannies, maids, bonded laborers with no hope or chance for freedom.

It’s a tragic fact that there is more slavery in the world today than at any time in history. There’s an estimated 29.8 million people caught in human trafficking – modern day slavery – whether it is forced labor or the sex trade or underage prostitution. It’s the fastest growing and second largest criminal activity in the world.

Shortly after my nightmare, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook page about human trafficking and left a comment. Then another Facebook friend left a comment to mine saying, “If you do something, let me know.”

I stared at her comment thinking, “Will this be one more time where I say I want to do something, yet actually do nothing. Or this time will I actually DO something?”

So I reached out to Tanya who created the original post. Over her kitchen table, we shared our thoughts and information. We were just two suburban moms, outraged over the colossal issue of human trafficking, attempting to answer the question, “How can we make a difference from here?”  In the days that followed, I casually mentioned my new endeavor to selected friends and family. In less than two months, our group grew from two to twenty-two!

And we accidentally became abolitionists.

We formed Justice Network to raise awareness of the issue and support for organizations locally and globally that are already on the front lines fighting this heinous evil. Justice Network exists to educate, equip, and empower friends and neighbors to become abolitionists providing education about the facts and ways to fight the issue and directing support to those organizations rescuing victims.

We are part of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, participating in and contributing to their activities. And each month Justice Network hosts its own events, including a movie showing, fair trade market, jewelry party, appeals to Congressmen, high school outreach, etc.

Through both secular and religious organizations, change is taking place. Traffickers are going to jail. Victims are rescued and redeemed. People are changing the world. I’m a “real housewife of NJ” out to change my corner of it and to do what I can to impact the lives of those in peril.

Susan-JEK-smSusan is a wife and mom who manages her chiropractor husband’s office by day and writes by night. She writes a personal blog, Eternity Café, that shares stories of everyday life that reflect the eternal truths of God and is the co-founder of Justice Network, which raises awareness of human trafficking and support for organizations locally and globally that are already on the front lines fighting this heinous evil.

Join Me to #FightToxins

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Seventh Generation, but the text, thoughts and worries are my own. 

I do my best to shop consciously. I often consider the impact my purchases will make on the environment and my own health.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve become far more aware of the dangers that lurk in the simple things we use every day, such as the chemicals in household cleaners. There are certain brands that make me feel sick after I’ve used them. I don’t use those brands anymore, but it makes me wonder what the heck was in those bottles.

Being in charge of my two boys’ lives is something I don’t take lightly. While I can’t keep them in a bubble (darn it), I can pay attention to what they are exposed to.

Did you know?

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We’ve all heard of the dangers of Bisphenol A (BPA), but what about the chemicals we don’t hear about? I was surprised to find out that more than 80,000 chemicals available in the United States have never been fully tested for their toxic effects on our health and environment. 80,000!

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976, and unlike other major environmental laws, has never been updated.  I was born in 1976. That’s a long time to leave such an important law dormant. Because of the lack of action, tens of thousands of potentially harmful chemicals continue to be used in the marketplace without proper testing and without disclosure by the companies that produce them.

What’s the risk?

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Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause a whole host of health problems. Scientists have linked exposure to toxic chemicals to Cancer, Alzheimer’s, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and various reproductive problems.

What you can do: Demand that Congress reevaluate the Toxic Substances Control Act for the first time since 1976 

I signed the petition for safer chemicals and asked Congress to hold companies responsible for the safety of the ingredients they use. I hope you will join me.

With your help, Seventh Generation will spread awareness about the 37 year-old TSCA and start conversations about how it fails to protect the health of the general public. The goal is for the “Toxin Freedom Fighters” to deliver 100,000 signatures to Congress on April 30, 2014. I hear we are getting close!

In addition to signing the petition, you can also help spread the word about the #FightToxins campaign through your social media network. Seventh Generation has some great images you can share on their FightToxins.com website.

Will you join me to #FightToxins and help spread the word? 

For additional background on the TSCA, visit this website.

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls. It is part of a 24-hour blog carnival. You can read more newborn health posts on the Global Team of 200 site.

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