Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Maurice and Mrs. Tikvah Wiener

On December 26th, The Frisch School in Paramus held its second annual 26 Acts of Kindness Day in memory of the 26 victims of the Newtown tragedy. The idea came from Mrs. Tikvah Wiener, an English teacher at the school. She thought of it last year when she saw a campaign on Twitter asking people to tweet their kind acts to the hashtag #26Acts. “I thought it would be wonderful if we could launch an annual event at our school to honor the victims.”

The day started with an inspiring visit. Laura Schroff, author of the best-selling book An Invisible Thread, had come to the school a few weeks earlier to share her inspiring story. Ms. Schroff was living in Midtown Manhattan in 1986 when she came across an 11-year-old black panhandler asking for spare change so he could eat. Ms. Schroff ignored the boy and started to walk away, but then she felt something in her heart. She turned back and offered to take the boy, Maurice Mazyck, to McDonald’s for lunch.

Ms. Schroff and Maurice went out to dinner every Monday night for the next four years, and she began to look out for his needs. They developed a mother-son relationship that continues to this day, 28 years later. The students knew Ms. Schroff was coming back to Frisch on December 26th to speak to them again, but she brought a huge surprise with her: Maurice. Ms. Schroff and Maurice launched Frisch’s Act of Kindness Day by reminding all the students how one act of kindness can change the course of someone’s life.

Mrs. Wiener’s 11th grade class and a group of students involved in Ramp It Up, Frisch’s literacy program, then had a question-and-answer session with Ms. Schroff and Maurice over breakfast. “I thought the meal was a great idea,” said Arianna Kigner, a junior at the school who helped coordinate the day. “It gave us a chance to ask the harder questions, and we saw Ms. Schroff and Maurice in the environment that first allowed them to connect. Also, one of our 26 Acts of Kindness is to share a meal with someone you love, so it gave us a chance to do just that.” The breakfast was emotional as Maurice shared intimate details of his harsh childhood, growing up hungry on the streets. It set an encouraging tone for the day for the students.

All through the day, students were encouraged to perform acts of kindness. Several of Mrs. Wiener’s students manned a table in the school’s lobby that had sign-up sheets and a poster on which students wrote down which acts of kindness they performed. At the end of the day, The Frisch School gave the poster to Ms. Schroff and Maurice. Two groups of students also went out into the community in order to do charitable acts. Some students went to a homeless shelter, while others went to a senior center. The Friendship Circle camp was also at Frisch for the week, so students were performing acts of kindness all week, by caring for and playing with children with special needs.

The day finished off with a presentation in the afternoon by Ariel Sterman, a Frisch alumnus. Ariel came to discuss with the students a charity he and his friends recently started called Good St. The point of Good St. is to give young people a chance to give to the charities of their choice. They can give as little as a quarter a day. The way this works is that the website sets up a cause of the day, and people decide which institution under that cause they want to send their quarter to. If they are not interested in that cause, then they can save their quarter to give more money to the next day’s cause. “The organization showed us new, creative, and innovative ways to be kind and consistently think of others,” said Esther Getter, a student who heard Ariel’s presentation.

Students loved the 26 Acts of Kindness Day as it was a wonderful opportunity to show them the benefits of kind deeds, both for those receiving assistance and for themselves. Instead of waiting for the next Acts of Kindness Day, now Frisch students will go out by themselves to find new and exciting ways to help people.

By Alex Kasdan