09 April 2021
Throughout the Passover break, I found myself standing in my backyard thinking of all the things I had meant to accomplish during quarantine. I had ambitions of constructing raised flower beds. Of planting vegetables. Of becoming a tried-and-true gardener. This, as you might guess, did not happen.
Of course, kicking myself for not being more committed to my would-be hobbies, or not exercising more, led me to acknowledge just how lucky I have been this past year. I have had the luxury of being able to work from home and the resources so that my family and I were safe and comfortable. Many others have had to face an altogether different reality. For thousands of people in Greater Washington, the pandemic has meant lost wages, lost jobs, and even lost loved ones—challenges for which there is no vaccine.
While we may not be able to reverse the difficult impacts of this year, we can do something to help lighten the load for those who are struggling. This is the spirit behind Federation’s Sara & Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Week. From April 11th-18th, Federation and our 60+ partners across DC, MD, and Northern VA will bring together thousands of community members for volunteer opportunities focused on combating food insecurity in our region.
Feeding America predicts that throughout 2021, 1.6 million people in Greater Washington may not have enough food or know where their next meal will come from, an increase of 50% from previous years. By joining forces, we aim to help change this projection. I encourage you to visit our Good Deeds Week page and participate in one (or more) of the many in-person and virtual volunteer service opportunities.
At Federation, we also have our sights set on the months to come. Guided by the effects of the pandemic and insights from our 703-J-CARING Jewish community support line, Federation and our network of human service partners are now developing an integrated, scalable anti-poverty initiative for long-term systemic response in the local Jewish community. With a preliminary focus on food insecurity, housing, mental health, and job training and placement, we expect to help address four of the major stressors faced by local community members.
This work comes at a crucial time. As the pandemic recedes and we begin to pick up the pieces, we must continue to keep each other’s wellbeing at the forefront of our minds. It can be easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and lose sight of what people are going through, but now is the time to pay extra close attention to one another. People’s lives have changed in overt and subtle ways this past year, and the more attuned we—individually and as a community—are to those shifts, the faster our collective recovery will be.
For my part, I will undoubtedly continue to fret about my yard (especially as the next generation of cicadas are coming!). But I am also thinking about how I want to venture back into the world. To return to who I was before this all started would be to deny all the ways we have grown as a community over the past 13 months. I have seen firsthand how much people can overcome and what a difference we can make in each other’s lives. My goal is to hold onto this understanding and move forward with a deeper appreciation for what we can accomplish together when we deploy our care and support.
The pandemic has left many irreversible scars on our friends and neighbors. But, if we let it, I think it can also be what strengthens our belief in the power of community. As the world begins to reopen, we can take the lessons we have learned during this time and channel them into many more good deeds.
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