A Gift for a Year

By Jeannie Spiegel

I’m young, I’m 18. I don’t have thousands of dollars or even a consistent salary. I have limited time and previous commitments. I do have a desire for change. I believe our world is a beautiful place and we all have the chance to shape the world to be the place we want it to be. I believe that people are good and when I do something positive for another person they will pay it forward.

Over the last few months, week after week, the gap year program I am on takes us around Israel. I’ve been in rich and poor communities, mixed and divided cities and I have gotten a chance to live my life in Israel. I’ve met with people that all speak up for their rights, who advocate for their beliefs. And week after week my list of issues I see in the world has expanded and my passion to do more and more has increased. Amongst my newfound knowledge, I have found great difficulty in deciding what takes precedence in my mind and life.

Each week, we hear from the people around Israel. Each week our trip ends and we pile back onto a bus to campus. At first the conversations are about the trip and speakers but after a while those conversations drone out and topics more relevant to our lives heighten. A month later it is hard to even remember what we did or even feel like striking up a conversation about what we heard. It’s so easy to snap out of this world of frustration toward the things so innately wrong. It’s so easy to forget what we see and the experiences that in the moment feel moving. It’s so easy to go on with our day to day lives because thats all we can do, right?

We make the idea of change so great, arguably, too great. There is a connotation that changing the world is a ‘dream’ people have. Something unachievable by you or I. Yet that’s the exact issue. Our interactions are unmeasurable. We need to change our mindsets and the mindsets of others. The things we say or actions we take to strangers and friends alike weigh different amounts. We often hear about how a smile can change someone’s day or a friend may bring up something you said and you may not even recall the experience the same way. We know we have power, we all have influence. So how can we use it in the most beneficial way.

After seeing and realizing that I have to do something, even something small, I came about an idea that I strive to stick to. Every month I give $18 to an organization. It is an issue or organization I have learned about because I know that I have to make a change and I can make an impact. I believe that my $18 is going towards heart surgery for a child that without coming to Israel would not make it to their next birthday. That child that I helped, may go on to be a doctor and save other children’s lives. I may choose to give a hot meal that allows a young student to pay attention in class, causing him to fall in love with computers and inspiring him to start his own high-tech. We need to all start to believe this. Young people need to believe that giving is something you do throughout your lifetime, not when you are wealthy enough. It is something we do now.

$18 is another meal out, an uber (or gett) ride or a movie ticket. All those things are great but you don’t need them. You can still have a meaningful dinner conversation cooking with friends. Or turn on a laptop and snuggle around a computer with the people who matter. We can all do something to have a greater influence, to educate ourselves and to do something that last longer than a monetary transaction.

There are 24 hours in a day. 1440 minutes to think about the problems facing our world. 86400 seconds to do something. We can make the choice every day to spend an extra second or minute thinking and acting on the issues in our minds mental perifiary. There is no excuse for inaction. These actions may not move mountains in the moment but have the potential to re-write social norms. We all can shape the world as long as we actively choose to see the world through a lense that present, present of everything around us. A message that says “I have influence and I believe in a better world.”

Jeannie Spiegel is an intern at Jgive, a nonprofit helping other nonprofits in Israel through crowdfunding. She is a current gap year participant and will be attending the University of Maryland in fall 2018.