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Six Billion Paths to Peace Family Service Event at the Shinnyo-en Chicago Temple

Contributed by Jenny Friedman, Executive Director, Doing Good Together

 

Markers, fleece, and a big dose of commitment filled the community rooms of the Chicago Temple for the first-ever “Six Billion Paths to Peace Family Service Event” on December 2nd, 2012.  A Minneapolis-based nonprofit, Doing Good Together (www.doingoodtogether.org), was thrilled to be invited to partner with the Shinnyo-en Foundation and the Temple to organize the event, which gave families a chance to do readymade service activities while also learning about ongoing volunteer opportunities in their community.

The event started with a video viewing of the fire ceremony held on November 25th in Taipei, Taiwan, with the theme “Awakening Your Buddha Nature” – which was led by Her Holiness, Shinso Ito. She solemnly rang a hand bell to awaken everyone’s Buddha nature and encouraged members to contribute to society for the sake of others. It was the perfect day to put our spirit of service into action for the people in the community of Elk Grove, Illinois.

After a few words by Reverend Fumio Ishizaka and event organizers, participants moved among six “stations,” each with a different hands-on service activity. In little over an hour, the participants accomplished remarkable things. Working together, they eased the burden of several Chicago-area nonprofits by:

  • decorating dozens of placemats and lunch bags for the DuPage Senior Citizens Council, which serves local seniors.
  • decorating and filling 50 Party-in-a- Bag kits — including cake mix, frosting, balloons, party tableware, and candles — so that every child in the community can have a birthday celebration. Some kits were donated to WINGS, which works to end domestic violence and homelessness; others went to Humanitarian Service Project, whose mission is to alleviate the suffering caused by poverty.
  • making colorful modeling clay for the children served by WINGS.
  • cutting and tying no-sew fleece blankets for the Kenneth Young Center, which provides mental health and senior citizens’ support services.
  • decorating a grocery bag that families could take home, fill with food items, and deliver to the Humanitarian Service Project food pantry, which is in desperate need of supplies.
  • creating greeting cards to cheer a boy and girl struggling with life-threatening diseases, through a national organization called Send Kids the World.

Approximately 10 representatives from Community Character Coalition (CCC) of Elk Grove also joined the Sunday afternoon event. Representatives from many of the local community organizations that benefited from the day’s activities were also on hand to talk about their mission and volunteer opportunities. Attendees later received a handy e-booklet describing those volunteer ideas. Each family also created a “giving jar” to take home, to use as a focal point for discussions about their own family values and how they might continue to contribute. A “giving jar” is a large glass jar with a slit on its lid like a piggy bank in which to deposit coins. As the jar is filled over time, families can choose causes to which they want to donate the coins once the jar becomes full.

The 70 or so participants closed their time together with reflection. Everyone was asked to illustrate their own personal path to peace by creating two bookmarks – one to take home to remind them of their commitment, and one to hang on a line that was strung across a large window. The crowded string was a potent symbol of the collective impact that results when each of us takes a small step toward building a more harmonious world.

The feeling of excitement, inspiration, and warmth that was evident throughout the afternoon was reflected in the evaluations. Every participant not only rated the event as “Great,” but every one of them asked that the Temple host a similar event again within a year. By the end of the afternoon, parents had passed along ideas about compassion and kindness to their children; the community has gotten extra helping hands; and Temple and community members had shared the joy of service.