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Dr. Bobbi Wegner is a MA and NY licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in health psychology and behavioral medicine.

The Importance of Doing for Others: This Season and Every Season

The Importance of Doing for Others: This Season and Every Season

The other weekend, my family and I raised money and participated in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk in Milton (https://www.bestbuddiesfriendshipwalk.org/). As I stood packed in a diverse crowd with my three little ones in front of me, we listened to the stories of people with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities.     

There was something about being with my children at this important event, listening to the heartfelt and sometimes painful stories of others, and the positivity in the air that moved me to tears. The feeling of connection and empathy overwhelmed me as we danced with a community of strangers and as I answered questions from my children about others (i.e. “why did the boy who sang the National Anthem sound different?”).  It felt like there was nowhere else in the world more important to be in that moment. Although I would like to say I was flooded with gratitude and giving, honestly my family received so much more than we offered.

I am no stranger to the world of special needs. My eldest sister and roommate until high school, was born with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Some of my earliest memories were of visiting her in Children’s Hospital after she had a rod put in her back. I vividly remember the metal crown screwed into her oozing skull that attached her to a chair in attempt to straighten her back. The scars left in her temples lasted a lifetime. I would bring Crayola colored pictures of the two of us that hung in her hospital room and she would happily share the hospital meal of the moment. As a child, I did not know any different. Amy often had surgeries or medical appointments. Now, as an adult and a mother, I cry as I think about all that my sister endured. Before she even entered the world, she had drawn the shortest straw that played out for the 45 years she lived. Although our mother always highlighted the positive of having Amy as a sister and focused on what an impact she made on our lives, it is hard not to notice the cost. I weep for the lost possibilities, the lost life experiences, and the lost years.  

 Amy and Ty, a few weeks before Amy died. 

Amy and Ty, a few weeks before Amy died. 

But, my Mum is right.  Unintentionally, Amy taught me to notice how privileged I am – a generally healthy, white, financially stable person living in a safe community. And, it is my duty to use my positioning to help others and to help raise helpers. I am committed to never losing this perspective. I am devoted to making this world a better place for all the people out there, like Amy or others. My life is not perfect, but there is always someone who suffers more than me. 

A thriving and healthy community depends on people to put the common good before their own. If you ask parents what is important, many would say that they want their kids to be ‘kind and caring.’ Unfortunately, our messaging to our children does not match with our intentions. A Harvard study found that out of 10,000 youth surveyed, 80% say that achievement or happiness is their parents’ top priority, while only 20% say caring for others is most important (http://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/files/gse-mcc/files/mcc-infographic.pdf?m=1448057567). Youth are three times more likely to agree with this statement, “My parents are prouder if I get good grades than if I am a caring community member.” Sadly, we are missing the boat with our children in this regard. But, as the holidays approach this is the time to get focused and begin a practice of giving back, this season and all seasons. There is never going to be enough time or the right moment, but capitalize on the gratitude around the holidays to begin a habit of giving. You are training future adults. 


Things to think about:
-    What organization or community is most meaningful to you? You are more likely to commit to something that you have an emotional connection to. 
-    As a parent, ask yourself how you are modeling caring behavior? How can you be better at this? Take the extra moment to hold the door for someone, give to the homeless person, bring food to the local shelter ( http://miltonfoodpantry.org/, http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/?referrer=https://www.google.com/).
-    Connect with a local agency like a hospital, school, or social service program (http://www.miltonhelpinghands.org/index.html).
-     What language do you use around being kind and caring? Everyday ask you child, how they were kind or caring at school? Ask if anyone was kind or caring to them at school? 
-    Ask children, were there moments they could have been kind and caring but weren’t? What got in the way? Think about other potential action steps.
-    Teach kids to stand up for those who are vulnerable. Help connect them to the feelings in their body that occur when someone might need a friend or someone to stick up for them (i.e. butterflies in the belly, racing heart etc). 

More and more, I realize how small the world is and how many people need our help. Let’s join together to be the helpers, building a community of kind, caring, and responsible children right here in Milton. Let’s be the change. I promise, we will all reap the benefits. Happy holidays. Published in The Milton Times last week. 


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Ingredients
•    1½ cups warm water
•    1 tablespoon honey
•    1½ teaspoons salt
•    1 tablespoons Active Dry Yeast (I prefer Red Star)
•    3½ - 4½ cups flour
Instructions
1.    Combine water, honey, salt and yeast. Let sit for 10 mins until there is a foam on top.
2.    Knead in flour until no longer sticky.
3.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Plop dough on a greased cookie sheet and form into a tube shape. Cover with a lightly damp towel. Let it sit for 20-30 mins, or even a bit longer. 
4.    Cut 3 diagonal slits in the top and bake for 15-20 mins. I use convection bake and it makes for a crusty crust. 

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