by Judith Baruch

My parents had a family party for my sixth birthday. Uncles, cousins and friends all showed up, as well as neighbors and they all, as accepted on birthdays, brought many gifts.

After all the guests left, I eagerly opened all the gifts and found out that some people brought the same gifts. Naturally, I thought that we would exchange the presents I received twice. However, my parents said “the presents you received twice will not be exchanged. Instead, we will give them to a child who doesn’t have any toys and who doesn’t have the opportunity to celebrate his birthday.”

This lesson I learned from my parents shaped me as an adult and taught me a lesson, that without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And through this lesson, I met David.

David is a 21 year old who came to Israel to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). David is a sweet, smart happy, young man who is determined to become a combat soldier, who loves Israel and is as friendly as can be.

My family and I took David in, and he became a part of our family. On Friday night dinners he spent with us he already was aware that he needed to compliment the cook. Conversations with him were always fascinating, especially when he shared stories about his native Guatemala and we told him stories about Israel in exchange. He asked questions and for advice, we listened and answered hoping we can help, hoping to have all questions answered.

After every visit, we gave him all the necessity he needed  for the way, and after a short ‘see you later’ we waited for the phone call that we knew was coming the next day.

When David met a young woman and she became his steady girlfriend, he happily called and told me about her and was very excited! And I, like a Polish mother (worried parent) wanted to know everything about the new girlfriend: who is she, where is she from, what is she doing etc. etc. David was already in my soul!

When he joined the IDF, he moved to a Kibbutz and was “adopted” by a family from the same Kibbutz. We have never lost contact and we are always there for him when he needs us even if he is not there physically.

Every man, in the race of life needs to stop once in a while, if not a complete stop, than at least slow down enough to smell the roses and let some meaning into his life. That meaning can come from volunteering and from giving to others.

Volunteering by definition is “To perform or offer to perform a service of one’s own free will” and to that I have to say: volunteering is a way of attitude towards our society as a whole and our private life in it.

Our salaries from our day jobs and careers are very important; without our salaries we would not be able to survive. However, we sometimes forget who we are and our principles for and because of money. It is important to remember that life is not all about what we can make, but life is also about values of what we can give, and that is what makes the difference between ‘materialistic’ and ‘spiritual’.

The Boston-Haifa Connection has a wonderful group of volunteers that chose to bring in to their lives some spirit by volunteering, giving to others and creating activities for the community.

The members of The Boston-Haifa Connection understand the values and represent the spirituality in our materialistic, everyday lives.

Now back to me. When my oldest son celebrated his sixth birthday, the family and his and our friends gave many presents, some of which were doubles, just like at my sixth birthday. And just like me, he wanted to exchange his double gift for something new. It was my turn to teach him the same lesson as well.

And we are now waiting for next ‘lonely soldiers’ from abroad.

Judith is the Administrative Assistant at the Boston-Haifa Connection office in Haifa.