Woodside Park Cares
by Andrew Plaskow
I've been asked to speak again this year. That means that either I did a reasonable job last year or we have a shortage of people prepared to talk to a crowd.
This time the Rabbi suggested a topic - something that I have found inspirational. That really isn't an easy one. I can think of lots of people and events that have influenced me, but inspired?
I looked for a definition on the internet and came up with 'the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: "flashes of inspiration".'
So I thought back to find something or someone that had inspired me. We are all affected by the people around us and events that shape our lives. About 8 years ago I fell off a ladder trying to change a light bulb, resulting in 2 weeks in hospital and another 3 months unable to walk - How many men does it take to change a light bulb? For me the answer was lots, including an ambulance team, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and many others!
During my recovery Paula took me to Brent Cross and pushed me around in a wheelchair. It was amazing. I became invisible. Wanting to buy something in John Lewis the assistant didn't even look at me but asked Paula what I wanted. It was the 'Does he take sugar' syndrome.
I can't say this was immediately inspirational but I have reflected on that and other similar things that happened during that time and it has had a great influence on me.
This year my personal focus on the Board is Woodside Park Cares, building on the foundations of all the hard work by many in our community, expanding its horizons and encouraging more people to join its ranks.
There is an old Chinese proverb 'Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime' Adapted for this talk it would be 'ask someone how they are and you will show you care, ask someone what they can do and you will give them purpose'.
We rightly focus a lot of our communal attention on our children and youth. They are obviously our future.
But what about the rest of us? Our Welfare volunteers fulfil a wonderful and much needed role - helping with practical support. Our Bereavement team similarly provide support at a difficult time. Our Hospital visitors are greatly appreciated. Lastly, of course, we all applaud the amazing pastoral care given 24/7 by the Rabbi and Gila.
Let's look beyond that though to see how as people age within Woodside Park we can enable them to flourish and participate to the best of their physical and mental ability. Let's value and respect them for what they can offer us. When I was a boy growing up in Woodside Park I thought people of 60 were really old. As I approach my 60th birthday I've changed my mind! I still have a lot to offer - in fact just like a good wine I think I'm improving with age.
When I couldn't walk it didn't mean I couldn't think, or write, or talk.
Someone with cancer still wants to do all the same things as before they were diagnosed.
A person with dementia may have difficulty remembering what they did today but has a wealth of stories and experiences they would love to share while they still can.
Don't ask 'Does he take sugar?' say 'Do you want a cup of tea?'
The UN have published principles for Older Persons and Jewish Care is promoting an approach in line with this divided into five areas - Spirituality, Learning, Care, Participation and Independence. We have a link worker from Jewish Care who will help us bring their vision to our community.
But what do we need more than anything else? We need your help.
Many of our young are involved in volunteering and the concept of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the world). But too often we look outside to see who we can help and forget our own members who need support and contact. Obviously there are those amongst us who require practical help but people do not just want to be seen as welfare cases. They often feel there are barriers stopping them from engaging in synagogue life. If you join the David Lloyd Club and never go, eventually you say 'this is a waste of money' and cancel your membership. Being a member of our shul is not just paying up for burial rights - we have so much people can enjoy and my vision is that people should be happy to pay their shul membership because of all the benefits it brings to their life, not just a necessary overhead.
So how do we achieve it?
By building on positives, not negatives.
By respecting everyone and appreciating their contribution.
By encouraging involvement and innovation.
Where do you all come in?
If there is something we aren't doing that you would like to see let me know. If you would like to help, let me know.
We can all do - it's just a question of finding what. For example:
If a group of you would like to help paint some of the classrooms - fantastic, they need it.
I've wondered for some time if a Jewish Book Club might work - reading books of religious or cultural interest and meeting to discuss them. If you agree would you help organise it? This is something that can be enjoyed by all.
I've been asked about having a drop in coffee morning here or in people's homes - would you like that? Could you help run it?
Are there members of the shul living near you who have Shabbat dinner alone and would really love to occasionally be invited over?
What we all need to do is talk to each other, not about each other - although I admit to liking a bit of gossip.
Does he take sugar?
I don't know - ask him!
Help prove that Woodside Park Cares