Thank you. These two small words, that simple phrase, can be more powerful than anything else in the world. Thanking people for their contributions shows that you appreciate the work that they have done. It will encourage those people to do greater work in the future. And, it can make someone’s day.
This is the last full week of AJSS 2010. Five full weeks of our summer of service have passed, some of the projects that have given meaningful work to our volunteers may be completed in the next few days, some may continue after their departure.
In this week’s Torah portion, parashat Eikev, Moses reminds the Israelites about all the major hurdles they have overcome in the course of their travels. Leaving Egypt, the golden calf, crossing the Red Sea, life in the desert, all of these momentous events forged the identity of the Israelites, and continue to be the basis for Jewish identity today. Moses points out that the reason for the continued success of the journey is entirely because of God. Without God looking out for the Israelites, any one of the obstacles might have prevented them from continuing on their journey.
Unlike the Israelites in the desert, our program does not have a single individual to thank. There are countless people and organizations who have helped us navigate our hurdles to guarantee the success that our trips have enjoyed so far. Everyone from our Habitat for Humanity hosts and the local agencies that gave us the chance to serve others in the community gave our participants countless hours of meaningful service work, the cornerstone of our summer. The housing that we enjoyed, both in Synagogues and in a community center, gave us a place to make ourselves at home and create our own community. The cooks who helped prepare our delicious meals and added some local flavor to our food. Most importantly the people who our participants interacted with on a daily basis that made the experience as successful, meaningful, and thought provoking as it was.
Interestingly, as Rabbi Ken Brander noted, the Hebrew word for giving, NaTaN, is a palindrome. For when one gives to another with the sole purpose of effectuating change, what one receives in return is as great or greater than the efforts expended
As the Israelites thank God for their protection, AJSS thanks the communities of Little Rock, Avery County and Kansas City, for the opportunity and experience our volunteers have been part of. AJSS would never be successful without the generosity, hospitality and goodwill of everyone we encounter.