Last Friday my children and I attended a small ceremony in Watchung Plaza to honor the memory of those lost in the Montclair post office shooting 19 years ago. There were eight of us there, including the pastor and the post master. Despite the informal nature of the ceremony, I was moved, and I valued showing my children the plaque, reading the names, and explaining what the flowers represent and how we remember those taken from us. They’ve heard enough, between captured bits of radio and television and attending other events, to understand what honoring memory with action means.
After the ceremony, they ran wild around Watchung Plaza and I had a chance to notice details that I usually rush past during my busy days. There is the September 11th memorial on the southernmost end of the Plaza. It is situated so that commuters leaving the train pass by. And in the center of the Plaza, a moving tribute to Mischa, a young person with a wide reach.
Mischa Zimmerman was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 13 years old, and while he reached the very lowest of lows, he was also able to recognize the power of small gestures when combined with big hearts. He started Kids Helping Kids with his mother, and his initiative has touched countless lives.
From Mischa’s Story on the Kids Helping Kids website:
While Mischa was still recuperating, a five-year old boy down the hall asked Mischa if he could borrow Toy Story. Mischa gave the tape to the boy as a gift. He still marvels at how this tiny event turned the boy around. “I couldn’t believe how much something as small as a videotape meant to this kid. He hadn’t smiled in a week, and here he was grinning and laughing out loud. I also realized how good it made me feel to do something for another kid. It made me feel more alive and less involved in my own problems. That’s when I first had the idea for Kids Helping Kids.”
While Mischa continued to fight to regain his health, he teamed up with his mother to launch Kids Helping Kids, a volunteer organization run by teens to benefit teens who are facing medical crises. The name of the group says it all- kids helping kids in whatever way they can: raising money to buy motorized wheelchairs, donating time to keep a lonely kid company in the hospital, pooling resources to grant a sick child a special wish.
The interactive memorial, two public chess tables and personalized bricks with messages from family and friends, share both the love Mischa had for chess and the impact one person’s passion and positive actions can have on a community.
Take time to visit Watchung Plaza’s memorials as the weather warms. Take time to remember those who have been taken too soon and think about how we can all improve the space left behind.
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