Life Lessons & Learning in India: Tikkun Olam

Mahatma Ghandi said it best.... "Be the change you wish to see in the world".

This post started months before I set foot into India. A friend from the San Francisco Jewish Community told me about the inspiring work JDC was doing all over the world, and suggested I check out some of their upcoming trips. When I visited the Entwine site I was so excited and surprised to find numerous opportunities to get involved abroad! In fact, there was an India trip coming up in just a few short weeks. There happened to be a cancellation and a last minute spot available on the India trip. Despite the fact I had minimal vacation time left, I knew I had to take the opportunity of a travel with JDC Entwine to India!

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew the age-old idea of Tikkun Olam would be a key cornerstone of my life. Now, working in the field of Employee Engagment and Leadership Development I've learned that I am not alone. In fact, "making an impact" is a top of the priority for both Millenials and Gen Y seeking satisfaction. As we grow our careers and continuously reinvent ourselves, studies show our generations tend to drift more and more to roles which allow us to feel we are really making a difference. Although I make time sporadically to get involved in the non profit world, I havn't been able to dedicate as much time as I would like.

I often find myself asking, "why is it so hard to take time to give back? Why do I get so caught up in day to day life and not make time for what is really important? How can I, how can we, together, make Tikkun Olam a central part of our lives?"

The trip to India was really eye opening and provided a lot of insight. When i got back to San Francisco a few days ago, I found it very difficult to deal with the usual corporate hodge pogde in the office. There are so many people in the world who are struggling with bigger issues. I couldn't help but think of our first day in Mumbai.

We had spent almost a full day traveling and finally reached our hotel late at night. When we woke up the next morning the air was thick with smog. From the corner of our hotel window there appeared to be water only a few blocks away. My roommate and I were dying to get a glimpse of India, so we left the hotel to go exploring before it was time to meet the group that morning.

As we walked toward the Arabian Sea, the vision of a beauitiful beach was quickly replaced by a horrid smell and piles of trash billowing up along the walls. As we got closer small children (maybe 3 or 4 years old) ran past us barefoot, dirty and alone. I'll never forget the excitement and smiles on their faces though, playing just as if they were behind a white picket fence in middle America. By the time we reached the edge of the walkway we could see the beach... except this beach wasn't your typical sandy shore, but a mass of trash, shacks and debree.

It was like a dagger to the heart. Men, women and children emerged from the rubbage they callled their homes to start thier days. Don't get me wrong, I have traveled, quite extensively in fact, but I had never seen this level of poverty. My stomach felt a little sick and my chest physically hurt. I just couldn't understand how people lived this way. We have all heard the TV commercials and stories of what it's like in places like this, but to see and feel it first-hand is a whole different experience. Back home, we're so blinded by day to day problems it's easy to forget what true struggle means. 

Later on that day I had the opportunity to learn about the work Gabriel Project Mumbai and JDC are doing in India. The Gabriel Project provides hunger relief and education for children who live in the local slums. Spending the afternoon with them we were able to truly understand the impact this program has on their everyday lives. Without The Gabriel Project, many of these kids wouldn't have had breakfast or lunch, and most definitely wouldn't have spent the day learning and playing. We laughed, sang, danced and played all afternoon. The smiles on thier faces lit up the room and they were so excited we had come to spend time with them. All I could think about all day was quitting my corporate job and pursuing a fulltime career in the non-profit world where I could make an impact every day.

In the corporate world employees regularly ask the question, "How can I become a leader?" My response often catches them off guard, "Being a leader is not about a position or title. Being a leader is about inspiring and engaging others in pursuit of something bigger. It is a mindset and it's woven into every action that person takes."

I've realized in the past few months that just as a true leader is not determined by title, embracing the idea of Tikkun Olam (reparing the world) doesn't require me to quit my corporate job to make a difference. JDC Entwine provides countless opportunities for young adults from all over the world to come together and make a difference. It's up to us to embrace these opportunities and create new ones for those who come after us! When I returned home I took out my calendar and started filling in some weekends and time to dedicate to volunteering. I have found that blocking this time and getting involved with organizations like Entwine are the best way to hold myself accountable to what's really important in life (not to mention a way to meet some really amazing people).

Embracing Tikkun Olam takes discipline, but it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. I can't wait to see what the future holds and hope I can truly impact others across the world.

Written By

January 30, 2015 at 6:11 PM




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