The Character Movement

Tikkun Olam – Inspiring Our Kids to Repair the World

In the fall of 2008, I visited with a friend of mine whose son, Steven*, had just been cut from his high school basketball team. Steven was a competitive kid who attended a competitive school in an affluent, first-tier suburb of Minneapolis – and he loved basketball. Not only was Steven disappointed, but his pride was wounded. He wasn’t part of a school culture where failure was taken lightly. Furthermore, as a junior, Steven had a lot of high school ahead of him and legitimately wondered what to do with all the time he had set aside for basketball glory.

First, I empathized with him. Then I saw an opportunity to give him a challenge.

“I know this stings right now,” I said, “but take a couple days and think about what you could do with all the time you’ll have on your hands. Ask yourself how you can make a difference. Come up with a Plan B.”

Two days later, I received an email from Steven. It read:


After taking 48 hours to think about how I am going to make an impact in the world as a 17-year-old, I finally have my answer. I think I am going to help out with refereeing some Special Olympics events for the rest of the year. I enjoy working with kids with disabilities and it always leaves me feeling happy to make an impact on their lives.

Thanks for making me think,


Instead of feeding his ego or throwing his hands up in despair – in a mere 48 hours – Steven decided to do something positive and productive for other people.

This is a great example of the Jewish concept known as “Tikkun Olam”, which translates to “repairing the world.” The Millennial Generation is known for giving back, philanthropy, volunteering and leaving the world better than they found it. There are many great organizations out there supporting students in their service learning or charitable work. Some great programs include WE Day, Students Today Leaders Forever and Special Olympics.

This week, I challenge you to take some time and think about Tikkun Olam. What can you do with your free time to help repair the world? How can you inspire the kids in your life to do the same?

*Name has been changed to respect the privacy of the family involved.

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