The guy in the glasses?
He was my Shakespeare teacher in high school in the early '90s at Parkway North in Saint Louis. I knew him as "Dr. Dulick" and for me he was that teacher. You know the one. I didn't major in English. I haven't read Shakespeare in years. But, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches us, teachers only think they have a subject. "It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that the pupils read: the text that they will never forget."
These days I'm a teacher and a rabbi, each in no small part because of my teacher, Dr. Dulick. I've never forgotten.
On June 26, 2003, Dr. Dulick moved to Las Vegas, Honduras where he is known as "Hermano Miguel" to most of his neighbors.
Why did he do it? In his words, "To give to anyone who asks."
Sounds so simple, doesn't it?
In 1985 he'd left the Jesuits to be a teacher at Parkway North, even though back in 1977 on the back porch of the church in Morazán, Honduras after chatting with Felix, 17-years-old, (who over the next three years taught himself to read and write) Miguel determined that one day he would live there.
Between 150-200 people a month . . . a month . . . come to Miguel for a "little help." They come from Pueblo Nuevo, Nueva Palmira, Paraíso , Terrero Blanco, La Catorce, Nueva Suyapa, Tierra Amarilla, Panal, Cafetales, La laguna, Guachipiln, Ojo de Agua . . . for Modesta Morillo coming to Miguel for help the first time involved a four-hour hike through the mountains with her four children and three pounds of beans for Miguel.
He helped Maricela, Juan Blas, friends for over 25 years, and their six kids build a house. He helps children through school. Education in Honduras is "free" but supplies and breakfast are not.
What does he love most?
Seeing crumbs on kids' faces. Especially at birthday parties. Many children in Honduras don't know when they were born or how old they are, but Miguel makes sure each one is celebrated.
With a big cake confected by neighbor Carolina, corn chips, and Cokes, "everyone is invited," and everyone has to share, and no name-calling. Miguel says it might be that his proudest accomplishment is raising consciousness about "apodos," hurtful nicknames.
"When I got here, even adults called Ery "Mongolito" and little Alex "Chunte" [catfish] because he has a wide mouth. "A person is not their weakest feature," explains Miguel. "They have a name."
For years, Miguel lived on what he needed from his pension and gave the rest away, somehow never running out. But with his neighbors having some big medical emergencies, changing politics, rising costs . . . his modest pension does run out.
My teacher needs our help helping his neighbors in Honduras.
Let me tell you what we've already done:
For about $1,000 we covered the expenses that saved the life of a young woman who was in a bad car accident.
For about $500 we made sure a pregnant woman can get to and from the doctor and receive the regular ultrasounds she needs throughout her pregnancy to track the tumor growing alongside her child.
For about $100 we funded the trip for a woman living in poverty who had dengue fever, to get to a doctor. We can help with the cost of her care, and the Gatorade waiting for her when she returns home.
For about $100 we got a mother two pints of blood for uterine surgery for cancer, and for a bit more get her home between treatments so she can be with her kids.
For about $50 we got people to and from a bunch of medical appointments.
For about $50 we helped folks build a house.
For about $25 a pile of Honduran kids got to celebrate their birthdays . . . or just their existence if not a specific day . . . with cake.
For about $10 we got meals for a family.
. . . and more. So much more.
We've done amazing things together.
But we aren't done. We can't be done. Miguel can't increase his pension, and we can raise more money. I hope you’ll join us!
Please, share this story.
Please, add some money to the Go Fund Me.
It doesn't get more direct than this. No overhead. No employees. No office expenses. Every cent goes to people living in poverty in Honduras.
Tzedek and Charity
The word tzedakah is usually translated as "charity," but its Hebrew root is "tzedek" - justice.
Many of the biblical commandments that are about reaching out to and helping people who are experiencing poverty or illness, homelessness or who are in a new place are collected under that umbrella. Things like leaving harvest gleanings and the edges of the fields for people who are hungry (Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22), providing interest-free loans (Exodus 22:24), forgiving loans and tithing (Deuteronomy 15:1-11 and Deuteronomy 26:12-13) give guidance in what it means to work toward justice through giving tzedakah.
So what does it mean to do justice Jewishly?
What does it mean to give charity in Jewish ways?
What could it mean to seek a better world informed by Jewish tradition and experience?
Hachnasat orchim - Welcoming
How can we welcome refugees and other immigrants?
Bikur Holim - Visitng people experiencing illness
How can we reach out to people who are experiencing illness informed by Jewish values?
Uvcharta - make a choice: vote
How can we understand our civic responsibilities in Jewish ways?