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‘Tis the Season . . .

Drema Woldman

Drema Woldman is Supervisor, Secretarial Support Services in the Chicago Office.

During the holiday season, we feel benevolent as we open our wallets, write checks to the charity of the week, or give a homeless person a dollar here and there. Having done these simple and easy acts of kindness, we feel satisfied that we are making a difference and are absolved of any future responsibility until the next holiday season. Really? Community service, giving back, making an impact on the lives of others, helping those less fortunate - that's what makes a difference.

I grew up in a small southern town where everybody knew everybody, and if there was a problem, the neighbors rallied together to solve it. Many activities and solutions revolved around the church: Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, clothing closet, food pantry, toy give-away, emergency funds, etc. If someone lost their job, somebody in the community knew a man who knew a man, and you got the job based on his recommendation. The pantries and closets were replenished so that there would always be something for someone. The community made sure that no one went without, but those were the days of seasons past. No longer do we feel the need to be our brother's keeper.

When I went away to college, I volunteered at the local Job Corps Center which housed and trained youth 16-22 years of age. That was an eye-opening experience for me. Some of the problems those kids faced did not occur in my neighborhood. The majority of those kids were juveniles and were given two choices by the judicial system: Job Corps or reform school. Each one had a unique set of issues, and I could see the difference that my involvement made in their lives. As a result, I changed my major from education to social work, and upon graduation worked at the Job Corps Center as a counselor until I moved to Chicago and started working in the legal field. As I am no longer in the social work arena where I can directly impact the lives of others, I satisfy that desire through volunteerism. My subjects of choice are youth and the elderly.

Because of my upbringing, it is my nature to help others less fortunate, and it is also my nature to try to persuade everyone else to do the same. Remember the old adage "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime?" Giving a homeless person a dollar or two is a passing gesture that puts a band-aid on the problem, but actually volunteering on a regular basis with a program of your choice is the difference between that person begging on the street and that person being taught to provide for himself. One of the easiest things about volunteering is finding the right opportunity. There are so many options - organizations, charities and other entities that need what you have to offer - your commitment, time and selflessness. Through volunteering, not only will you change someone else's life, you will also change yours.

In summary, making a difference is not just for the holiday season, it is all year round. We have much to be thankful for, and to whom much is given, much is required. Please pay it forward.