by Chaya Litchman
In the time since our cohort has started the Diller program, we have learned so many leadership skills and we had the chance to use them to help older adults living alone in our own Philadelphia community. Diller Teen Fellows raked leaves, changed light bulbs, and did other household tasks for people who were unable to do so themselves. For some of these homes, there was little physical work to be done; we ended up spending most of the time conversing with the homeowners.
Hearing these people share their life stories was an eye-opening experience. The first family my group went to was a grandmother who had her daughter and her grandchildren visiting from Israel. As Diller eagerly awaits our trip to Israel, it was interesting to hear what it was like for someone who grew up in Philadelphia to make Aliyah. We got to discuss cultural differences and the difference in the way people do things in both countries.
The second home my group went to was a women living by herself. She told us the story of her life and life lessons she had learned. Her advice to us was that being independent is a gift. Connection is meaningful, but first we need to learn about ourselves. She then spoke about anti-Semitic incidents happening in her neighborhood. It was the first night of Chanukah and she was debating not putting the menorah in the window, because she was afraid of what the neighbors might say. We talked it out with her and in the end, we lit the candles and said the blessings her.
Knowing that Diller inspired someone to light their menorah was a very positive experience. Overall, the volunteering for NORC wasn’t just about housework, it was about interacting with these strong individuals and keeping them company. They benefited from our work, and we benefited from hearing what they had to say.