From TBT President Jeanne Freeman
Throughout our lives there are opportunities to earn Merit Badges and Mitzvah Points. Merit badges are generally earned for accomplishing new skills, often overcoming something that is fearful. Mitzvah points are earned doing good deeds in service to those in need, for community, and on behalf of Temple Beth Tikvah. Potentially, one can earn both with a single act.
While out on the Oregon coast recently, I had the opportunity for a double. I was driving south on Highway 101 over Cape Foulweather in torrential rain, gale force winds, and dense fog. Never has a place been more aptly named than Cape Foulweather. With visibility of less than 5 feet in front of me and a surplus of "rough road" signs in lieu of actual road repair, I got us home safely over a five-mile stretch of road - admittedly gripping the wheel and holding my breath the entire way. Burt has given me the Merit Badge for driving in the worst possible weather conditions and the mitzvah points for not killing us - it's a far drop down to the Pacific Ocean on that stretch of road!
So what do Merit Badges and Mitzvah Points get you in the real world? A sense of accomplishment. Pride in one's strength of character. Humility in the face of those who carry on with far larger burdens on their backs.
At Back Door Café you can earn a merit badge in cooking oatmeal, scrambling eggs, and dishwashing for hundreds, and for other tasks too numerous to mention. And you can earn your Mitzvah points for helping to feed upwards of 130 hungry souls. Family Kitchen offers the same kind of opportunities.
While we might joke about earning mitzvah points in service to the community and others, it does make those of us who participate feel good about ourselves and our place in the world - that somehow our small action has made a difference in someone else's life. We march together holding hands for a purpose, for a cause, for the need of someone else.
At Temple Beth Tikvah there are dozens of ways to earn your badges and points. While we may be a small community in numbers, we act and we plan in very big ways. We offer education for adults and children, social action opportunities, spiritual and social gatherings, holiday events and more. And all of these activities need people to make them happen. Not one person, not just the committee chair, but a small group of people each willing to manage a small piece of it.
If I had the time, I would call each of you individually and ask about your experience, your strengths, the time you have to give, and together we would find the place within TBT for you to obtain your points. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of that much time. So instead, I'd like you to tell me about your willingness to step in and help.
What are your strengths and how can you help us? Here are some of the jobs that we have available to fill.
We need two people to co-chair the Passover Seder. We have more than five years of notes of what has and hasn't worked. We are already working on finding a venue. There are a handful of experienced people who have already agreed to be on the committee. We need an organizer or two to head up the task.
While it may be nearly a year away, we need two people to co-chair next year's High Holy Days services. The template already exists for every detail that needs to be executed, and our current chair, Kathy Schindel, is willing to train and assist the new co-chairs. It's just time for someone else to step up and take over.
We need volunteers for our committees - Adult Ed, Social Action, Ritual, Facilities Management - who are willing to take on responsibility for an event or program. We've got the instructions for how to get things done; we need more people to do it.
And here's one more reason to volunteer, from the NY times of October 26, 2017: "Research suggests that community social connections are as important for resilience to disaster as is physical material like disaster kits or medical supplies," explained Ichiro Kawachi, a professor of social epidemiology at Harvard's School of Public Health. "Voluntarism is good for the health of people who receive social support, but also good for the health of people who offer their help."
One final comment: In no way am I minimizing the work of those who have achieved Merit Badges in the Boy / Girl Scouts or other organizations who offer a similar honor. I think that if Merit Badges were offered for the experiences we have in life - like driving successfully while terrified in horrendous weather - we might develop a new and better sense of ourselves and our achievements.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you.