Repair the World One Person At a Time

Category: Weekly Columns

 When I began writing, my initial goal was to be a dad advocate as my own experiences motivated me in that direction. I still advocate on behalf of dads and all parents. But, as I ventured into the world of Social Media, I realized I had another goal of larger importance and that was to do my part to make the world a better place – to do my part to Repair the World, or Heal the World as Michael Jackson said!

In Judaism, it’s called Tikkun Olam, which roughly means to “Repair the World.” A further Jewish belief is that when you help ONE person, you are helping the world. After all, one person at a time can add up to a lot of people if everyone adopted that behavior.

Later in this column, I will list ideas for you and for your children to employ. Doing these separately or together will indeed help “Repair the World,” but more importantly it will make you feel better. I’ve often said that the more you give, the more you get.

A favorite example of mine was when I became a Big Brother. At the time, I led a very fun and largely self-indulgent life. I was single, I was doing well in my showbiz career, my parents were well and independent, and I had money in the bank. Heck, I even drove a convertible!

Thankfully, something inside me said I needed to give back in gratitude for the good fortune that I was living. In showbiz, the conventional way of giving back was to join a charity that the community supported and fund-raise. It was noble, but it also was sort of self-serving because it gave you the opportunity to interact and network within the community. Also, it was political and I really wanted to avoid that.

I had always loved and wanted kids, so I chose the Big Brother organization as my way of giving back. It would be a one-on-one interaction with a child and there would be minimal group activities and even less adult encounters. I went through a three-month interview process, dare I say interrogation, during which time I attended training sessions, was fingerprinted and “verified,” had one-on-one sessions with a social worker, and was finally “approved.”

My expectation was to be matched with a little boy and we’d go to the park and play ball, sort of like I did with my own dad when I was little. Instead, I was matched with a little girl. Sadly, this doesn’t happen much anymore due to legal fears, though the need is still present for girls without fathers to have a father figure in their lives. Thank you, lawyers and the politically correct!

My “little” didn’t like to play ball. In fact, she didn’t like to do much. She didn’t even like to go to the movies or get an ice cream. She was difficult. She had her reasons. “Our” social worker said I could ask for a change, however encouraged me to keep on trying to connect. I chose to stay. In time, we found things we enjoyed doing together.

I stayed “matched” with this “little” for the next decade, during which time I got married and had my first boy. I also got the best possible training to become a parent! I learned how to relate to a kid who didn’t share my interests. I learned how NOT to make it all about me. I got as much or more than I gave, pure and simple.

My “little” is now a successful middle-school teacher in her thirties and we’re still in touch.

When my boys were growing up, I was stunned to discover how they did not share my love of sports. My experience as a Big Brother was invaluable in showing me the way to love them in spite of our differences. They are NOT me was the bottom-line lesson I got.

I think this is the perfect example of helping the world, one person at a time. My “little” and me we went through many difficult phases that I later encountered with my own boys. I was prepared. How wonderful!

How can you and your children “Repair the World?” Here are just a few ideas, in no particular order:

~~ Become a Big Brother or Big Sister.
~~ Volunteer at Thanksgiving at a shelter for the homeless. Go together with your children and help serve the Thanksgiving dinner.
~~ Befriend an alone elderly person at a local senior living facility. Together or separately, volunteer to read to one senior, or to a group. Make it a weekly or monthly habit.
~~ Organize your own singing group to entertain at a senior center or assisted living facility.
~~ Visit ANYONE that is alone at a hospital. Regularly.
~~ Read to the blind. My son and I read on a small local radio station where we literally read the newspaper to the blind listeners that this station catered to. Boy, was that a sobering experience for both of us.
~~ Write to a soldier abroad. They are lonely and many do not have great support at home.

The list of things YOU can do to “Repair the World” is endless. Please do this for yourself and your family. You will feel amazing and you will reap rewards you cannot possibly anticipate. Let me know what you do and how it “pays off” for you, please!

  • Annrhea

    Bruce, you are an inspiration to us all! And your actions do Tikkun Olam

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thank you so much, Annrhea! I try my best and can do better, as can we all!

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  • http://brianvickery.com Brian Vickery

    Great story about your “little”, Bruce…and I liked your suggestions for getting involved. We coached youth soccer for years, and it was surprising how many single-parent families we met – where those kids appreciated seeing two parents running practice with an obvious love for each other…the sport…and the desire to pass the love of a sport to kids.

    Once we get the 2nd one out of high school, I suspect we will be back to coaching youth sports. We might be taking it to the tennis court, though!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You know, I’m going to be passing through Colorado – staying overnight in Denver – on my road trip to college with my son in August. Maybe we can hit some balls?

      • http://brianvickery.com Brian Vickery

        Sounds excellent to me, Bruce – think I’m in town throughout August…although we still have to book east coast trips for the youngest to check out a couple colleges.

        Email me your dates, and let’s do the IRL thing. Peggy insists that pictures must take place or the IRL event didn’t actually take place, though.

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          If that’s what @PegFitzpatrick says, then we must do it!

  • David Weber

    Great column.  The best nutshell advice for how to repair the world is encapsulated in two quotes: one is pretty famous, and has been attributed to many humanitarians (Gandhi, among them): “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  The other is a brief prayer that, again, has been attributed to many famous people: “Dear Lord, if I can’t do great things, help me do small things in great ways.”  I teach the concept of tikkun olam in all of the courses I teach.  It is not uncommon for me to receive an email a year or two or more after a student has graduated, in which he or she writes, “I still remember tikkun olam, that really had an impact on me.”

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Professor, love those quotes. Let me help you out, though…it was I who made the second quote that has been attributed to so many others! LOL…Very cool to hear that you utilize the concept of Tikkun Olam in your courses! 

  • tim hurd

    re; repair the world one person at a time, nice story, very good sugestions plesae allow me to identify myself, my name is tim aka travs dad.  i am caregiver to my 1st born son diagnosed w/ duchenne muscular dystrophy at 31/2 in 1993 . ive spent the last 18 yrs following his path so that he would live a comlpete life as long as he could. great sacrifices were made by my wife and youngest son Josh, and I to accomadate our familys lifestyle. my wife and i have dedicated our lives and careers to children with severe disabilaties. my wife Kim is a moderate to severe special ed teacher at Pioneer Valley HS in Santa Maria. After woking for the elementry district I moved to the Santa Maria joint union High School district to continue my committment to my son. Working with children that struggle with physical and emotional disabilaties is incredibly rewarding. My wife and I have spent the last 10 years pursuing goals to keep us close and able to work with these children. in the last 8 years we have had to say good bye to three beautiful and gentle spirits, Elle, Julie and most recently our little Omar sad as it is they enritched our lives beyond what we could ever have expected. If more people took the opportunity to seek out ways to volunteer to assist disabled children or their families they too would find that hidden door in the depths of their heart that held the kind of joy a person can only recieve from unconditional love. Well worth the effort and incredibly fullfilling. Anyway thats this dads point of view. please keep up the great work the world is a better place with a dads point of view!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Tim, hats off to you. I know how rewarding and heart-wrenching it can be. I can only imagine your situation on a 24/7 basis. BUT, as you well said, you end up feeling MORE human doing what you’re doing!

      Please come to #DadChat any Thursday as you would be a GREAT addition to our community. Moms are there, so bring Kim too. We often discuss “heavy” subjects such as this but also have lighter evenings as we are tonight when we’re having a rock ‘n’ roll party! 

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  • http://www.stevecase.org/blog Steve (JoeBugBuster) Case

    I love it Bruce!
    Especially the importance of getting your hands dirty in addition to fundraising or writing a check.
    On the list of Repair The World ideas, I’ll go you one better on one of them: Rather than volunteering at a shelter at Thanksgiving (when they’ve got dozens – or hundreds – or volunteers), volunteer when it’s not anywhere near a holiday. That’s when they really need the help, so that will make a bigger impact.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Excellent “one better” Steve – smart, too!

  • Sanfordashley

    You are right Bruce.We never know who we are mentoring,coaching,parenting.It all starts with investing in the one person.Who knows the influence they may have o
    n the world.

    Sanford Ashley

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I had some great people help me along the way! How about you, Sanford?