Friday, February 10, 2006

Once and future fundraiser

Last year sometime, MG learned about the importance of tzedakah (charity) in Hebrew school, right about the time she got concerned about the homeless people we see around Seattle. "You need shelter to live!" she kept saying.

We made a spectacularly dorky tzedakah box by enveloping a yogurt container in duct tape and decorating it with marker and stickers. MG drew a picture of a house and a couple of Jewish stars, I cut a hole in the lid with a matte knife, and at her direction I wrote "TZEDAKAH--MONEY FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE."

Since then, we've tried to remember to give her some money-- a quarter, or a dollar, or whatever's around--to stick in the tzedakah box every Friday night when we light candles. Whenever we forget, MG is apt to jump up in the middle of dinner and gasp "Oh! The tzedakah money!"

By the time we emptied it out at Chanukah we had about $30, which we counted with due fanfare and sent to a local social services organization, earmarked for homeless services. (She was going to compose a letter to go with it, but the mechanics of writing it herself were too much for her and in the end we just sent a check and recycled the cash to dole out for future tzedakah contributions.)

This evening, some friends came over for Shabbat dinner: MG's best friend Jessie; Jessie's twinkly and dapper little brother Momo, who's almost 3; and their mom, Lara. The kids slipped away shortly after the blessings over the candles and wine, and were playing with trains as we grownups lingered over dinner, when MG did her trademark jump-and-gasp: "Oh! Mommy! Mama! We forgot something! The box!"

I suggested each kid put a quarter in the box, and gave MG three from our stash to distribute.

"Money!"Momo squealed, grabbing his quarter.

"No, Momo," MG instructed, "We're NOT going to KEEP it. Do you know why, Momo?"

He shook his head, bewildered but game.

"Because we're HELPING OTHER PEOPLE. We're helping them to LIVE. Do you know what will happpen if we don't help them to live?"

More emphatic head-shaking from Momo.

"They will DIE," MG said. "Do you want them to DIE?!"

"No!!" Momo cried out, aghast.

"Then PUT the MONEY in the TZEDAKAH BOX!"

Momo trotted obediently over with the big girls and dropped his quarter in the slot, as the grownups hold our napkins over our mouths in a heroic attempt not to crack up.

I figure she has a future in PiRG. Or else in kneecapping people.

In the meantime, I'm planning to ask her to consider cracking the yogurt container open for this project, which would indeed contribute to preserving the life of a spirited, funny and brave kid just about MG's age.

About which more on Monday, when it goes live.


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