Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, December 1st has been named Giving Tuesday. It is a day to take affirmative steps to give back to one's community or to volunteer one's time for another in need. I would like to highlight those for whom Giving Tuesday is an everyday event. We each know of such people. For these individuals, "giving" is not a once-a-year event, but a calling that they have incorporated into their daily schedules with all their souls and with all their might. They are the ones who tutor others or volunteer their time working with the homeless, with underprivileged children, or with those who are less fortunate or do not have the means that we all take for granted.

Last year, the Helen Diller Foundation selected me as one of the 2015 winners of the prestigious Diller Teen Tikkum Olam Award for creating a game intended to help children affected by Fragile X Syndrome schedule their daily activities and ease their anxieties when transitioning from one activity to another. The Diller Teen Award recognized not only the extent to which my project could significantly impact and change the world for Fragile X children and others with neurodevelopmental issues, but also highlighted the commitment that I gave to the project. I cannot take full credit for my project. In fact, I had the help of a phenomenal team of fellow students, teachers and local businessmen who turned my project into a community-wide effort.

While I was gratified to receive the Diller Teen Award, my gratification turned to awe when I met the other fourteen 2015 award winners. My fellow winners come from all over the country: from California and Arizona to New York and New Jersey; from Florida and South Carolina to Texas and Missouri. The energy and accomplishments of these fourteen fellow teens was inspiring and humbling at the same time. Some had devoted themselves to a cause for over a decade; others had already seen their work effect the lives of thousands of people around the world. In a sense, while my project was theoretical and in its infancy, the efforts of the others were full-blown programs that took on national and international appeal. At the award ceremony in San Francisco, California in August 2015, I was additionally privileged to meet past winners of the Diller Teen Award -- individuals whose collective commitment to help others was as impressive as any group I have ever come across, and who continue to work on their projects even as they've gone away to college or onto professional careers.

My experience with the Diller Family Foundation has continued to grow as I have become increasingly aware of other teens that see a problem, challenge themselves to solve that problem, and then go about finding ways to offer positive change to eliminate it. Organizations like the Diller Family Foundation are continually searching for such teens in order to recognize their achievements and to focus attention on teens who seek to positively change the world.

In my own community of Lynbrook, New York, students who heard about my project made it their mission to start projects of their own. Some use the fine arts and theatre to help those with disabilities; some raise money for people who will forever remain faceless and nameless to them, but will nevertheless materially benefit from their financial assistance; some devote their time to feeding the hungry or helping the impoverished. There is no right or wrong cause so long as the motivation is to help others.

Accordingly, as we approach Giving Tuesday, I ask each of you to answer the question: Can I Make A Difference? If your answer is "yes", do not put off starting. The process will be far more gratifying than any other that you will ever experience.