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Alan Cohen
Finding the words that meet peoples' needs.
Finding the words that meet peoples' needs.
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Civil War Re-enactment, June 2016, Millis MA.
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5/13/17
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Many community theaters, as the one I work with, does not get the audiences they deserve. Any suggestions for increasing audience size?

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Hi,

I just wanted to share a short Chanukkah story I wrote.

Light, A Chanukkah Story

Avram is a mischievous 12-year old boy. He likes to play practical jokes and always seems to get into a bit of trouble. It’s nothing serious, just enough to become a celebrity among the teachers at his middle school. However, whenever it is close to Chanukkah or his birthday, his behavior improves.

His mom is smart. She doesn’t want Avram to think that being good is based on receiving gifts. She has a plan to teach him about doing good for others.

“Avram, now that you are a young man, I want you to complete the Light Challenge.”

“What’s that? I’m totally in the dark.” replied Avram with a grin.

“It is a challenge to perform some good deeds, to illuminate helping others”

“I’ve been good.”

“Yes you have. However, you have the opportunity to do good instead of just being good.”

“What do you mean?”

“You can be good by doing good, by helping others, like when you help me carry in the groceries without me having to ask you.

I want you to do something good every day of Chanukkah. When you light the candles, you can tell me what you did. To help you get started, I will give you your first good deed to accomplish. When you visit zeide and bubbe at the senior living center, I want you to talk to some of the other residents. Not everyone is lucky to have visitors like your grandfather and grandmother.

Avram went to his room to think about this challenge. He was competitive and wanted to win. Chanukkah was just around the corner and he wanted to be prepared. He took out a pen and piece of paper and thought about what good deeds he would do. It took some time but he made a list of seven additional deeds to do in addition to the one his mother gave him.

“Hello bubble, hello zeide.”

“Avram, it’s nice to see you.” they both replied. Bubbe hugged and kissed him.

“It’s nice to see both of you. How are you feeling?”

“We’re fine.”

“That’s good. I’m also fine.”

“What problems could a 12-year old have?” asked zeide with a smile.

Avram looked around. He saw Mr. Greenburg.

“Hello Mr. Greenburg.”

“Hello Avram. What do I owe this honor to?”

“It’s Chanukkah. Happy Chanukkah.”

“And Happy Chanukkah to you.”

“My mom told me it would be nice if I talked to some of the other residents.”

“You should talk with Mrs. Goldstein. She doesn’t get many visitors.”

“Yes.” replied Zeide. “Talk with Mrs. Goldstein. She’s the lady in the wheelchair, over there in the corner.”

Avram looked in the direction of Mrs. Goldstein. She sat huddled in her wheelchair with her head down. She wasn’t sleeping; she was looking at her lap or maybe nothing at all. Avram walked over to her.

“Hello Mrs. Goldstein.”

“Hello.” said Mrs. Goldstein as she looked up in surprise and smiled.

“Happy Channukah.” said Avram.

“And Happy Channukah to you.”

“Hyman and Edith Choloff are my zeide and bubbe.”

“They are nice.”

“How long have you been living here?”

“I’ve been here for 12 years.”

“I’m 12!”

“Well then, I’ve been here since you were born.”

“Did you always live in this town?”

“No. I lived in Granbury.”

“I know where that is. It’s about 25 miles south from here.”

“Yes, you are right.”

“What did you do there. Did you have a job? My mom’s a teacher.”

Mrs. Goldstein and Avram talked for about a half hour. When their conversation ended, Avram promised to talk with her the next time he visited. He talked a bit with zeide and bubbe and then went home.

“Let’s light the first candle.” said mom.

“O.K.”

“Did you speak with some of the other residents?”

“Yes. I first spoke with Mr. Greenburg then he, zeide, and bubbe said I should speak with Mrs. Goldstein.”

“I don’t think I know her.”

“She’s a nice lady. She’s 85, sits in a wheelchair and is from Granbury.”

“What did you talk about?”

“She told me about her life. She has a son and a daughter. They live far from here and don’t visit her too often. It’s been more than three years since she saw them.”

“Not everyone has someone in their life.” said mom.

“It’s sad. She didn’t have a job like you but she was famous in Granbury because she knew how to waltz.”

“Really?”

“Yes. She said that every month the town had a big dance. They played a lot of country music and she would dance. Everyone said she was a great dancer, especially when she danced to the song, Tennessee Waltz.

“Her husband died and she lived alone for a while. As she got older, she got health problems and her son and daughter brought her to the senior living center.”

“It seems like you enjoyed talking with her.”

“I did and promised to talk with her when I visit zeide and bubbe again.”

“Good. That’s nice of you.”

The next day, Avram and his parents went to a Chanukkah party at the Chabad. Everyone wore heavy winter jackets. Avram saw that there was no one in the coat room so he volunteered to hang up coats. Some people gave him money even though he told them he was volunteering.

There was a lot of good food at the party, including some of the best deli he ever had. There was corned beef, turkey pastrami, and salami. There were also knishes, potato latkes, cookies, cake, and ice cream. Avram ate a lot and had a good time. All the children received a gift.

Before they left, Avram decided to donate the money people gave him to the Chabad.

After Avram lit two candles, his mother asked him about his good deed of checking people’s coats.

“I saw everyone with their coats and knew no one was in the coat room. I made a list of different things I could do for the Light Challenge and one of them was to do something good at the Chanukkah party.”

“That was nice of you. I saw you also donated the money people gave you.”

“Yes. It wouldn’t be volunteering if I accepted the money. I decided to give the money to the Chabad since I ate so much food.” said Avram with a smile. “The rabbi also tells good jokes.”

That night Avram took some books that he didn’t need any more and some clothes that he didn’t wear and put them in a bag. He even snuck in the ugly sweater his aunt gave him.

“What’s in the bag?” asked his best friend, Michael as they walked to school.

“I have some books and clothes I don’t need anymore.”

“Why are you bringing them to school?”

“I’m going to put them in the donation bin.”

“Why?”

He told Michael about the Light Challenge.

After he lit the three candles, his mother asked him about the good deed he did.

“I donated some books and clothes I didn’t need any more at the donation box in front of the town hall.”

Mom smiled. “Why did you do that?”

“The stuff from the donation box is sold and the money is used for Alzheimer’s research. Since the holidays are full of memories, I thought this would be a good deed.”

Mom smiled with pride and hugged Avram. She thought Avram learned something after all.

Avram brought the Chanukkah gift he got at the Chabad party to school. At lunch time, he decided to sit with Billy. Billy was a nice kid. He didn’t have as many nice things as some of the other kids. His clothes were hand-me-downs that were new when his oldest brother wore them, then they went to his other brother before he got them. Billy joked that he was lucky that he didn’t have a sister otherwise he’d have to wear dresses to school.

“Hi, Billy.”

“Hi Avram. Happy Chanukkah.”

“Merry Christmas.”

“What’s in the bag?”

“A gift?”

“Is it for a girl?” asked Billy with a silly grin.

“No, it’s for you.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“But I don’t have anything for you.”

“That’s O.K. I don’t want anything.”

“Thank you. If you ever need some hand-me-downs. just ask.” said Billy with a smile.

Avram lit four candles.

“What good deed did you do today?”

“I gave Billy the stamp collection I got from the Chabad.”

“That’s nice. But I thought you really wanted to start a stamp collection?”

“I do. Billy’s family doesn’t have much money. I can start my stamp collection after the new year.”

Priya is a nice girl. He didn’t know much about her but that was his fault. He didn’t talk to her because no one else did. It was stupid. She was from India and someone started a rumor that she was a Muslim. She wasn’t. She was Hindu. Avram didn’t care if she was Muslim or not. His father told him that there were good and bad people of all religions and all nationalities. Don’t judge people by their religion or nationality, but by the type of person they are. She didn’t do anything to suggest that she was a bad person so it was stupid that he didn’t talk to her.

“Hi.”

Priya looked up. She was eating lunch by herself.

“Hi.” she said.

“Can I join you for lunch?”

“Yes.” she said.

Some of the students looked at him but he ignored them.

“Happy Chanukkah.” she said.

“Do you celebrate Christmas?” he asked.

“No. We celebrate a holiday called Diwali. It is the Hindu festival of lights. It honors light over darkness and good over evil.”

“Like Star Wars.”

She smiled.

“Do you get a gift?”

“Yes.” she said. “And we eat a lot of food. We celebrate for five days.”

They continued talking and walked to their next class together. Avram made a new friend.

Avram lit five candles.

“Tell me about today’s deed.” asked mom.

“I made a new friend today. Her name is Priya.”

“I don’t know Priya.” replied mom.

“She’s a nice girl. She’s Hindu. Nobody talks to her. People think she’s a Muslim. I thought about it for a while and realized it is stupid to not talk with someone just because people talked about her.”

“I believe you are becoming wise. What did you talk about?”

“She told me about Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. They celebrate for five days, exchange gifts, and eat a lot of food. I learned that there are similarities between different cultures and religions.”

“Very good. Are you enjoying the Light Challenge?”

“Yes.”

The next day Avram went to the library after school. He wanted to get a book to read but he also had a good deed to perform. He saw some students at a table. They were a year behind him.

“Do you need any help with your homework?”

“Yes.” they replied.

One student needed help with his math homework and another needed help with her history project.

He went around to some other tables. Wherever he could help someone with his or her homework, he did.

That night he lit six candles and was prepared for mom’s question.

“What good deed did you do today?”

“I was at the library after school and helped students with their homework.”

“You’ve been creative with performing good deeds.”

Avram smiled.

The next day, Avram walked home from school a different way. It was a bit longer but it was important for today’s good deed. He walked to the supermarket where there was a man ringing a bell and collecting donations for the Salvation Army.

“Hello.” said Avram.

“Hello.” replied the volunteer.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes?”

“Why do you volunteer for the Salvation Army?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“It’s Chanukkah and my mom challenged me to do a good deed every day of the holiday. Every year I see Salvation Army volunteers but never knew much about the organization and why people volunteer? I can also help you get donations.”

“Well, about ten years ago, I didn’t have a job or a place to live?”

“Did you live on the street?”

“Sometimes. Most of the time I was at a homeless shelter. Sometimes, I slept in a church. With the help of a kind person, I got the opportunity to interview for a job. I had one problem. I didn’t have a suit. I just had street clothes.

I went to a Salvation Army store and asked if I could borrow a suit. They didn’t know me but they said yes. They let me borrow a suit, shirt, and tie. I went on the interview and got the job. I’ve been employed ever since.”

“That’s great!”

“Yes, now every Christmas, I volunteer to help the Salvation Army. I took today off from work to volunteer all day. I also volunteer one Saturday every month at the Salvation Army store.”

Avram was impressed with this man’s story. His teachers told him with all his jokes and antics, he should go into show business. So, Avram told jokes, sang and did funny things to get people's attention. He asked them if they could donate a bit.

Avram lit seven candles.

“What good deed did you do today?”

Avram told mom about his afternoon and the Salvation Army man.

It was the last day of Chanukkah. Avram’s last good deed was to donate his allowance. He walked back to the supermarket. There was always someone or group asking for a donation. He saw a girl and her mom. They were raising money for the elementary school’s music program. He gave them his allowance.

That night he lit all the Chanukkah candles.

“I have two questions for you.” said Mom. “You know the first.”

Avram told mom about his donation to help the elementary school’s music program.

“Now the second question. What have you learned from the Light Challenge.”

“At first, I thought it was just a challenge. All I wanted to do was win. However, every day, I looked forward to doing something nice. It felt good.”

“You don’t have to wait for Chanukkah to do good deeds.” said mom with a smile.

“I won’t”
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