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A Summer of Chesed

Julie Hauser

There comes a lull in the summer when there are no appointments, no day camp, and not a whole lot of ideas or motivation. I decided then that it was time, not just for Mommy Camp, but for Chesed Camp.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock.

Every year on the last day of school, my children run into the house and burst through the masking-tape finish line I create for them across their bedroom doors. Somewhere between that delicious last day of school and the “Mommy, I’m bored” first day of vacation, we have a family meeting. 

Our family meeting is where everyone gets to state their hopes and dreams for the summer. No debates allowed. No judgments. No questions asked. We sit as a group with a huge office-size dry-erase board as each person tells of things they would like to do or accomplish in the summer. Some ideas are simple: finish that jigsaw puzzle or complete the math review book. 

Some are extravagant: visit California. I write down everything each person says, and it later gets transferred to a paper. Over the course of the summer we refer to it and see what we can do to accommodate some of these desires and goals. 

One year, I wrote on that list: Make our own chesed camp. I got the seed of this idea from Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz of Yerushalayim, who mentioned that it’s an impactful chinuch experience for kids to participate in chesed. That launched my train of thought. 

There comes a lull in the summer when there are no appointments, no day camp, and not a whole lot of ideas or motivation to do the things on that master list. I decided then that it was time, not just for Mommy Camp, but for Chesed Camp.

Photo: Shutterstock

I created a basic outline of the day, which included davening time and then a ten-minute “morning meeting.” We sat on the back porch at our picnic table, where we started with a little handclap chant on the table: “Mor-ning mee-ting, clap-clap-clap-tap-tap, Mor-ning mee-ting, clap-clap-clap-tap-tap.” This made it clear that this was “camp time” rather than just a regular conversation. We went over our schedule and I announced the day’s trip, such as visiting someone in the hospital. We also shared a story relating to chesed, to infuse us with a shared purpose. 

Embarking on our chesed trips required both research and creativity. I first phoned the community bikur cholim coordinator to find out who would appreciate a visit by children the ages of my children, and who was well enough to receive them. I specifically asked for people who did not have many visitors and who were residing in public places like rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, or senior residences. I felt that a public setting would be more comfortable for everyone than a private home. 

Before our visit, the coordinator or I checked if and when the cholim wanted visitors. Even with all these checks in place, our trips didn’t always work out as planned. One lady we came to visit was sleeping the whole time. But the trip was not wasted: The lady across the hall waved us in, thrilled to have company.

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