This story starts with a radio ad.
I was driving to a potential sale, going over the pitch in my head, when a CJAD jingle caught my attention.
"Bring meaning to children from underprivileged homes. Join Big Brother today."
I have two older brothers. Together we worked for my Dad, Founder of I Magid Inc Distributors, a food wholesaler company. We are a tight-knit family, and I always looked up to my brothers. They guided me and taught me everything I know.
Somehow, that radio ad spoke to me. I was already working 60 hours a week and had no social life other than clients I met while on the road. I thought to myself, "maybe I could give of my time like my Dad always advises. Maybe I could be a big brother to someone else."
I called the organization and told them I wanted to volunteer. Within a couple of hours, I met with someone from Big Brother who explained how it worked. He informed me that I had to make a commitment for a year. I signed up and was assigned to help Raz, an 8-year-old being raised with his two sisters by a single mom.
I met Raz and his family. I began spending time with him every weekend, taking him to movies, restaurants, ski trips. I got him into hockey and we became regulars at Canadiens games. We grew close and I became part of the family. I discovered that volunteering my time brought a lot of meaning into my life.
Raz grew and was hired at I Magid Inc. 32 years have passed since we met, and Raz is now married with two kids. We are still very close.
Meanwhile, I Magid Inc grew. My hours and responsibilities increased, but so did my commitment to give of my time. I began delivering food baskets for MADA and giving my time to Yaldei. I was also financially supporting various causes that I believe in.
Then one day, I met Rabbi Bresinger of Chabad Lifeline. I visited the centre and was blown away. My Mom had been bipolar and I know what it feels like to be affected by someone with mental illness. And addiction is a mental illness.
I started donating annually to Chabad Lifeline. I also began taking young addicts out for excursions. We traveled to Tremblant, figured our way out of escape rooms, and had a lot of fun together. We also had some serious talks where I was able to see how Chabad Lifeline had changed their lives. Some of the kids had lived in the streets. Others had experienced serious physical or sexual abuse.
What goes around comes around.
One day, I got a call from Raz. A family member had a gambling problem that was out of control. Raz's entire family was affected by it.
As soon as I hung up with Raz, I called Rabbi Bresinger. I saw for myself why Chabad Lifeline prides themselves on offering services that are immediate, confidential, and at no cost. By the end of the day, Raz's family member had met with an Addictions Counsellor at Lifeline has been in recovery since. I am still amazed!
I admire Chabad Lifeline for how they open their arms and are welcoming to everyone regardless of background. When you meet their staff, you can tell that they really want to help. And they help so many.
I'm writing this in the hope that someone will read this and it will prompt them to volunteer. Chabad Lifeline is a good place to volunteer. You will find that you will grow as a result of your volunteering. People need to support financially, but they also need to give their time because nothing is more valuable. It may save you from getting caught up in the rat race of life. You may find yourself a little brother.