By Suzanne Reisler Litwin
My beloved father, Seymour had a rough childhood. His mother died when he was 2 years old. When he was just 12, his father died. He was an orphan before his bar mitzvah. Although he had four older brothers, he was still without parents. He went to live with various family members, aunts and uncles. Most of those situations didn’t work out well. As he grew older, he became difficult and angry. He didn’t like sharing everything with his brothers. He didn’t like having shoes which didn’t fit him. He didn’t like being poor. He wanted to be independent and self-sufficient. He also searched for parental love and security.
When he met my mother, Noonie, he found salvation. He found love, security, and hope. Hope that his life would be great. I think his adult life was in fact great.
Every time my father gave us (his children) gifts he would cry a little. As a child, he didn’t have many gifts. When he gave my sister a bicycle, he cried like a baby, as he never had one. It was his pleasure to give us everything he didn’t have and more. We were lucky to be spoiled by him. He was a very generous loving father.
Although my father loved to spoil us, he instilled a serious strong value. For whatever we were given, we had to give back. We did not have to give back to him; we had to give back to the world in some way.
He said, “Any gift you are given is a blessing. With every blessing you receive, you must give one back.” My father lived by his values. As much as he received, he gave back to the world. For this, he was an overly generous man. This value was extremely important to him and to our family.
Let’s go way back in time…
So, here I am a 9-year-old girl. It’s Saturday morning. My father took me and my siblings to visit his auntie and uncle. If we were good children during the visit, he promised to take us for lunch and then to the local toy store. Of course, we were angels!
We sat on the plastic covered couches quietly. We ate the foods we were given and only spoke when spoken to. We didn’t fidget or fuss. We didn’t complain about the funny smell in the apartment or the stale cookies. We listened and tried to understand their Yiddish. We waited patiently for our famous deli lunch and a trip to the toy store. We were the best kids ever!
After a delicious lunch and a visit to Silverberg’s toy store, I couldn’t wait to get home. I dashed to my Barbie doll and pulled off her old clothes and put on her latest ‘go-go get-up’ 70’s outfit. I was thrilled for her to be stylin’. For sure Ken was going to take her for a ride in his new Corvette!
At dinner that night, my father asked us what we were going to do to give back to the world. He stated that today was filled with blessings. So, what was our plan to give back? My brother was going to give some of his toys to children who didn’t have toys. My sister was going to give some of her clothes to people who needed clothing. I wasn’t sure. I told him I was going to think about it.
A few days passed and I thought about a way to give back. It was called, “Give an egg. Get an egg.” I heard of kids doing this so I thought I would give it a try. This is how it works.
First, I had to decide which organization I wanted to donate the money to. I selected The Canadian Red Cross. Then I went to my neighbour and ask them to donate an egg to me, so I can sell it and give the money to The Canadian Red Cross. Then I went to the next neighbour and tried to sell the donated egg. I usually sold an egg for 5 cents. I repeated the ‘Give an egg, Get an egg’ fundraising for hours. In days, I covered the local neighbourhood around my house. I’m sure I raised a decent amount of money.
I remember doing this with a friend and laughing as we drew faces on the eggs. Those eggs sold fast! We laughed making funny faces on the eggs. We even gave them names too! As in, “Would you like to buy Sally? She’s a happy egg. The money collected is going to The Canadian Red Cross!”
Once I covered the local neighbourhood, I was done. I gave my mother all the collected money. She deposited the cash in the bank and wrote out a cheque. I’m sure she added a few dollars to the total amount. I wrote a letter to The Canadian Red Cross about my fundraising activity and attached the cheque. I truly loved depositing that letter into the mailbox!
A month passed and The Canadian Red Cross sent me a really nice thank you letter with an official Red Cross Badge! I was officially an officer of The Canadian Red Cross! I was so proud.
I couldn’t wait for ‘Show n’Tell’ at school to show my badge and tell my classmates how I earned it. It didn’t take long for my classmates to do activities to raise money for The Canadian Red Cross. Everyone wanted to earn a badge and become an officer.
I still have my badge and the letter in my memory box. I clearly remember going door to door asking for an egg and selling an egg. I remember drawing funny faces on the eggs and giving them names. I remember gigging while doing this. It was such a simple free-spirited activity to do. I wonder if 9-year-olds today would or could do this fundraising activity.
What stands out most in my mind is how great it felt to mail the cheque to The Canadian Red Cross. How proud I was. How thrilled and honoured I felt when I received the official badge and letter of thanks.
Giving back felt great! Giving back still feels great! This memory is so dear to my heart.
Even today, I embark in a yearly fundraising campaign for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. My 2019 fundraising campaign will be launched in March. Stay tuned for that!
I hope my children will follow in my father’s philosophy of giving back to the world. I hope everyone reading this article will consider giving back. It’s a guarantee you will make two huge differences. It will make you feel great and it will make the world feel even greater!
Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education. She is a writing instructor at The Cummings Centre. She writes a weekly column in The Suburban Newspaper and at the West Island Blog. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban Newspaper, West Island Blog, Wise Women Canada, The Metropolitain, and Women on the Fence. She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. Visit suzannereislerlitwin.com to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.