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Lessons From A Tzedakah Box

02/16/2021 10:40:03 AM

Feb16

When our son Alex was born, he was given a Tzedakah box filled with money for us to donate to a charity of our choice. The brightly colored box, shaped and striped like a zebra, sat on his dresser untouched for nearly three years.  

A few weeks ago, Alex noticed the colorful box, stood on his stepstool, and started playing with it. He shook it, and delighted in the metallic clanging sounds.  

Then he noticed the opening at the bottom of the box. Like the curious toddler he is, he unsnapped it and the coins poured out. “Money!” he exclaimed!  

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to teach Alex about the concept of giving Tzedakah and helping people in need. We told Alex that we weren’t going to use the money he found to buy toys. Instead, we were going to use it to help people.  

We listed several suggestions for places that Alex could donate his money to, such as helping animals, feeding the hungry, or helping the sick. But Alex had his own idea: 

“ I want to use it to help Mitchy,” he said, definitively. 

Mitchy is Alex’s paternal grandfather; my father-in-law. Alex and Mitchy have always had a special bond.  Mitchy always loved to hug and kiss Alex and play with him, and Alex recognized the warmth and reciprocated it in turn. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on their ability to see each other in person. This is made all the more difficult because Mitchy suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The forced separation is taking a toll on his already fragile health.  Despite having Alzheimer’s, Mitchy was always able to recognize who Alex was, and would always break out into singing “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” when Alex’s name was mentioned. As Mitchy forgets many of the names and faces around him, the one constant had always been that he would remember who Alex was. One of the cruelties of the pandemic has been that due to the limited contact with Alex and the progression of his disease, his awareness of Alex is beginning to slip as well.   

Despite their limited contact of late, Alex still seems to be acutely aware of Mitchy’s recent decline.  At barely three years of age, Alex is able to empathize with the struggles of his beloved grandfather. He also seems to recognize our own challenges in helping to ensure that Mitchy gets the care that he needs. The fact that he has such a deep understanding of the needs of those around him warms my heart. It also gives me much hope for the children who are growing up during this unprecedented period of history. Our children will come away from this crisis stronger, tougher, and more resilient than we ever were, simply because of the shifting climate of what we once assumed was normal.

In honor of both Alex and Mitchy, we have donated Alex’s Tzedakah money to the Alzheimer’s Association. As we light our Shabbat candles each Friday night, we will encourage Alex to put additional coins into his box.  As his Tzedakah money grows, we hope that Alex will continue to find causes that are near and dear to his heart and to understand how lucky he is to be in a position to help.  

 

Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782