As a mom, I always want to give my kids the best. What parent doesn’t?
And this desire just gets amplified over the holidays. I want to create enjoyment and laughter for my kids, as well as memories they may continue with their own families one day.
But I also want to make sure my kids learn that the holidays are about more. They’re a time to say thanks, give back and help those who might need us.
So when I got the opportunity to connect with other women through the Moms on a Mission team, as part of Jewish Volunteer Connection, and host an event on Dec. 3, “Giving Tuesday,” that allowed us to help 12 unique families in our community, I thought things could not get much better.
But then we got to the night of the event, and I could not believe how well things turned out!
Let me backtrack a little. In my career as a psychotherapist, I find that a lot of my clients fear the holidays and struggle to feel the excitement of this time of year.
As I have shared with those close to me, the reality is there are people like this in the world, and I realized something remarkable. People wanted to help! Those who are fortunate enough to be able to provide for their families at the holidays wanted to give others the opportunity to do the same.
Now a part of me was not surprised at all. I will admit, I do have absolutely wonderful people in my life who I know have a vested interest in supporting those around them. But part of me was surprised. Mental health has never been the most “sexy” cause when it comes to giving. So when people asked me what they could do to help, I knew we needed to come up with an answer.
In addition to being a mom, a wife and a therapist in private practice, I am also the assistant clinical director at a wonderful organization called Shalom Tikvah. We work with families who have been struggling with mental illness and need more support than what the traditional mental health field is able to offer.
(Shameless self-promotion time — learn more about Shalom Tikvah here!)
One of the things we set out to do is make sure that all the families we work with feel the dignity and respect we all hope for ourselves. This includes being able to enjoy the holidays and provide for their families in the ways that mean the most to them.
This brings me back to the event on “Giving Tuesday.” JVC Moms on a Mission team is a group of young moms, led by Laurie Rosen, who connect with organizations in the community and volunteer their time to make a difference. It was impossible to contain my excitement at the idea of combining my passion for my work with Shalom Tivkah with my role as a mom wanting to set a good example for my kids.
We brainstormed ideas and decided to host an event where the group would provide and wrap gifts for all of our families. The event was posted to the group, and within 30 minutes we had 39 spots filled, and a waitlist! My heart was so full that there were that many women who were so interested and eager to help those less fortunate.
The night of the event, I was blown away by what these moms were doing for people they had never met. I, along with co-founders Nicole Glick and Jennifer Grossman, was in awe of the women that came out (37 out of the 39 registered showed up, and the other two sent gifts ahead of time!). We could not stop smiling, thinking about how much love our Shalom Tikvah families were going to receive through these gifts, and how these kind gestures were going to help them thrive and meet other goals they have set for their lives.
And the moms in attendance seemed to love it too! The conversations around the giftwrapping tables were heartwarming as people were imagining the little boy who would play with the Lego set one mom bought, or the mom of three who would get to treat herself to a cup of coffee with the Starbucks gift card that was purchased.
They talked about their own kids as well and how they want to set a good example for them by doing good themselves. While no one at the event knew the identities of the individuals they were purchasing for (due to our respect for the confidentiality of our clients), I was able to think about who was going to receive these gifts. What struck me was the similarities between these moms and those in the families we work with.
While we may all have different struggles, we are not all that different ourselves. We all want what is best for our kids. Just because someone is struggling with mental illness does not mean they should not have the chance to provide for their families. They just might need a little help. And that is what Shalom Tikvah and JVC Moms on a Mission were able to do that night.
For information about Shalom Tikvah and to learn how you can give back, please visit shalomtikvah.org or email me at Talya@shalomtikvah.org. And you can find the Moms on a Mission JVC team on Facebook here.
And check out Jmore Senior Writer Aliza Friedlander’s article on the work we are doing in this month’s issue.
Jmore parenting columnist Talya Knable is a psychotherapist who lives in Lutherville with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Jack and Leigh. Her website is tkpsych.com/ She is also the assistant clinical director of Shalom Tikvah (shalomtikvah.org/), a local non-profit organization that supports Jewish families facing mental illness and other challenging life circumstances.