Going to the mailbox is a big deal around here. Isabelle watches me nearly every day. She gets excited when she has mail, which happens maybe once a week. (If she doesn’t officially have mail, then I bequeath a catalog to her.) Today she had mail from the PJ Library. I figured it was a book about Shavuot. As I opened the envelope and presented her with the book inside, I was shocked by the title.
“Tikkun Olam Ted,” I announced! Tikkun Olam Ted? That doesn’t sound like a Shavuot book! “Do you want to read it?” I asked.
She nodded her head.
I popped a squat on the floor next to her and began reading the story of a boy, Ted, who spends every day of the week, except Shabbat, repairing the world.
His family calls him “Tikkun Olam Ted” because he wants to help fix the world and make it a kinder, better, place (2).
And that was when I knew this book was the perfect book for what’s going on in the world right now. I cannot comprehend senseless acts of violence that rip limbs off of bodies and tear apart families. The bombings at the Boston Marathon sought to terrify people from gathering and celebrating the preparation and conditioning that goes into running a 26.2 mile race. So rather than focus on what was lost on Monday, I am prepared to focus on the light in the world. And the way to find light in the world is through acts of kindness.
And that’s where books like Tikkun Olam Ted come in. As a Jewish parent I want to teach my daughter what repairing the world looks like. It’s hard to instill that sense into a young child. They have to see their role models being kind to others in order to show kindness to others themselves. But, just like anything we can teach through literature, tikkun olam is no different. By learning about Ted and how he recycles, walks dogs from the animal shelter, waters the plants, and feeds the birds, my daughter can learn simple ways she can work to repair the world we live in. If we can teach our children how to make their corner of the world a better place, then perhaps this world won’t feel as broken as it does right now.
Tikkun Olam Ted is written by Vivian Newman and illustrated by Steve Mack (Kar-Ben, 2013). Isabelle enjoyed the story and “read” it by herself after I finished reading it aloud to her. It is my hope this becomes one of her favorites.