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Change One Life, Change the World

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You cannot change the world, but you can change the world of one person.

This is the foundation of a joint effort we have this holiday season, the Elijah Moment Campaign.

In the Old Testament, Elijah is a prophet who appears throughout history to spread light in the midst of darkness. He comes into your life and makes your day!

Unfortunately, in our country, we have witnessed an increase in acts of violence and we are firm believers that the response is to flood the world with acts of kindness. The world needs you! So, as we enter the holiday season, ask yourself, “Did I do something today to make the world a better place?”

The story is told of a student of the Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760 a Jewish mystic and teacher) who felt after much preparation that he was deserving of a vision of the prophet Elijah. His master instructed him to visit a certain town and ask to be hosted at the home of a specific family. “Make sure to bring them food,” the Baal Shem Tov added. The student eagerly packed a wagon full of food and set off. Upon arriving, he was directed to an old dilapidated house, the home of a poor widow with many young children. The student spent the sabbath with them and was only too happy to share his mountains of food. But Elijah never showed up.

The Baal Shem Tov instructed the student to try again the next week. As he approached the door, he heard a child’s plaintive voice” But what will we eat on the sabbath?” A reassuring voice replied, “Don’t worry. Just like Elijah came last week, he will come this week again!”

What does it mean to be an Elijah? The man in the story sets out to find Elijah in some remote location only to realize that Elijah lies within. It is in that moment of recognition when he realizes that he is the one the family is waiting for and that he is the agent of kindness. He knows that his life embodies a mission beyond himself.

What if we were to discover our Elijah moments each day? Not only would we lead more impactful lives, but the world would be a radically different place. When you walk into your office or home, do you ask yourself what you can do in the next few minutes to make someone’s day? Try it, and you’ll see that it is a vastly different way of looking at the world…and one that will transform you and your surroundings.

To go a step further, think about the people who did not ask for help but to whom we could have reached out and touched. Think about the people who pass you by in the store or in line at the local coffee shop. Did you greet them with a warm smile and wish them a great day? Did you exchange a warm glance with a cashier or simply keep your eyes on your smartphone? Imagine if you looked up and smiled. Perhaps the person was having a tough day and the difference you could have made in his or her life.

Here are 12 ideas you can use anytime, anywhere to become an Elijah and create your own Elijah Moment for someone in need. You don’t need a lot of money to make a big difference in someone’s day:

  1. If someone runs out of money at the grocery store in front of you, pay the difference. Better still, just buy all their groceries.
  2. Give the clerk at the coffee stand an extra five bucks and say you want to pay for the next person. In fact, give a $20 and pay for the next four people!
  3. At a restaurant, ask the waiter or waitress to give you the bill of one of the other patrons and then pay it without letting them know it was you.
  4. Make a donation to the local food back by clearing out your over-packed pantry.
  5. Instead of ignoring the panhandler on the corner, give him five bucks and wish him a Merry Christmas.
  6. Take ten one-dollar bills and drop $1 into the hands of the next 10 beggars you see along the street on the way to work.
  7. Go through your home and put together a package of clothes, phones, tools, appliances, and furniture you don’t need or wear anymore and drop it off at the Salvation Army or another bona-fide charity that collects items for those in need.
  8. Got a collection of old cars on your property? Donate a car to NPR, the Make-a-Wish Foundation or another charity
  9. Call up your rabbi or pastor and offer to buy or sponsor toys and dinners for needy families.
  10. Go to the local school and donate money so needy kids can go on a school outing.
  11. Take time to notice the pedestrians waiting to cross as you drive your local streets. Stop your car and let them cross. Surely you can afford those few seconds of delay.
  12. Do you see that perfect parking spot in a crowded lot? Leave it for the next person, and park farther away.

William Penn (1644-1718, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania) wrote, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

Be creative. Pay attention. The possibilities are all around you. Do something to help someone today and become an Elijah!

Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

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