Charna, dearest;

I’m remembering.

At already 3 years old, you’d lock yourself in the bathroom and whip up your very own own Shopper’s Drug Mart Pharmacy supplied palette. Gleeful, you’d pounce on the toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream—somehow you’d inevitably find the food coloring, too.

You’d boldly paint any surface your ambitious toddler armsNot the Clarins foundation! could reach. Upon conclusion of said art session, you’d emerge—none the worse for wear—sporting telltale signs of your art spree.

With equal parts horror and pride, I’d view your Picasso-like work on the tiled walls and within the bathtub.


Charna. Next time, JUST use the shaving cream and the food coloring, not the shampoo and the conditioner.

OH. MY. HEAVENS. Not the Clarins foundation!

Why! Why?

You'd sheepishly promise to “remember for next time.” (And there was always a next time.)

NO! The perfume?

You wanted the art to smell good?

We never discussed using the perfume.


Got it?


And no lipstick either. Or eye shadow.

OK (one tiny concession), you can use the green eyeshadow.

It’s 12 years later. You are still creating, concocting, mixing media that would make any daredevil artist proud. Artistic surprises orbit around your bed—tulip-lined gardens, blue-lipped aliens, glittering cosmopolitan skylines. To quote someone famous: You just blow my mind.

Today, you are about to embark on a new artistic adventure entirely unlike any endeavor you’ve known before. You are now an official volunteer at The Center for Geriatric Care.

This evening, you will proudly put on your yellow volunteer necklace for the first time (untrue, actually, you did try it on at home) and get acquainted with the residents.

You’ve already memorized the maps, brochures and codes, and are impressively familiar with the facility.

It’s so very like you to master the lay of the land. And a responsible practice, too, given that you are being entrusted with precious human beings.

I can hardly contain myself from showing up tonight (intrusive Jewish mother that I am). I would grandly announce to all present: “There goes my Charna! Is she not just the greatest gift to humanity?” I imagine some would contest my claim. After all, every Jewish mother’s child is THE GREATEST, right?

Charna, you are now a whole different sort of artist. Your canvas is human life. Your art tools are compassion, grace and kindness. You are not locked in Mommy’s bathroom anymore. You are out in the big, bustling world interacting with (gasp!) strangers—in this case, elderly, often fragile residents.

I’m excited for you. I know your dazzling smile and wry wit will make someone’s day. I know that when you roll the wheelchairs into the elevator, you'll double check the brakes and do “responsible stuff.”

I know you will pay careful attention to Gert and CharlotteYou take your art seriously and Betty and Helen. I can just see you sagely nodding, offering warm acknowledgement. Because that’s how you are. You take your art seriously. Even when it’s messy and unpredictable. Especially when it’s messy and unpredictable.

I’m tempted to visit you at The Center. Just to kind of stroll by, pretending we’re not even remotely related. I would quietly holler, “Heey, Chaaarna! Good going!” But I know that you don’t do that sort of thing. It wouldn’t bode well for me as “Mother of Center for Geriatric Care Volunteer.”

So, for now, I’ll sit tight, waiting for your text, telling me you’re done for the evening, and that everyone’s been safely escorted back to their respective rooms and floors. I expect that you’ll make some fast friends.

It’s a big deal for me.

And an even bigger deal for you.

Here’s to you, my beloved artist child.

Paint the world beautiful.

Love you,



“The Alter Rebbe said: The mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael extends to anyone born into the people of Israel, even if you have never met him. How much more so does it extend to every member—man or woman of the community where you live—who belongs to your own community.”

Hayom Yom, 3 Adar 1