It’s OK To Be Selfless

October 3, 2013

2013_shapiro_marcHaving been a professional journalist for almost six years now, I am hopelessly addicted to telling stories. I love the variety in subject matter and getting to meet all kinds of people. Every now and then, I get to write a story that really stops me in my tracks.

In this week’s issue of the Baltimore Jewish Times, I tell the incredible story of a humanitarian effort to help Korean War orphans that was led by William and Rose Sneider of Asbury Park, N.J., and their family (“Remembering The Humanitarian Project That Time Forgot,” page 24). It was brought to my attention by Mindy Dickler, a grandchild of the Sneiders who is trying to preserve her family’s legacy with the recent passing of her mother.

As I got deeper into this story, I realized how incredible it is, especially given that it was started by one socially conscious couple. It goes something like this: In 1952, Rose Sneider read a plea from a soldier stationed in Korea concerning the dismal conditions in which orphans were forced to live. She and her husband owned a yarn shop, so she decided she would start donating scrap yarn and to make garments for the orphans.

The shop was overrun with volunteers, and the effort went international with an estimated 20 million people contributing to the project and two others that grew out of it. All because of one couple with one shop. And although they were recognized by U.S. congressmen, Korean diplomats and various others, the Sneiders never got bigheaded about it. They sent at least 6,000 garments themselves, taking on all the costs and never affiliating with any organization or group.

Dickler and her family never knew much about the effort until a few years ago. It wasn’t something the family boasted about.

While this was surprising at first, it seems a great lesson in humility. In these days of Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to boast about our achievements, often in real time. And while it’s nice to get ‘Likes’ and be re-tweeted, the Sneiders show that the focus should be on selflessness, not recognition.

I donate to various causes and nonprofits, admittedly not as much as I could and should, but I do. And while my inclination is to post a Facebook status telling people about the donation and urge them to donate, too, I often keep it to myself. I try not to focus on personal satisfaction, even though I do feel some satisfaction knowing my money is going to good causes. I look at it as more of an obligation. As someone fortunate enough to live comfortably and have disposable income, I look at it as my way of spreading the wealth to those who need it.

Another very inspiring part of the story, which you will hopefully read, is how this humanitarian spirit is still alive in the family, even three generations later. Dickler and her children all work in some capacity to give back. Even for the Sneiders’ great-grandchildren, helping others comes almost second nature.

We can all take a lesson from this family, and we can ask ourselves if we are truly giving back to the world that has given us so much.

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