Be the Candle

The Peaceful Parenting Newsletter
Issue #15
A free e-mail newsletter from Naomi Drew

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle
or the mirror that reflects it.
Edith Wharton

My advice to this generation is -- Give of yourself.
There’s no one who can’t give something.
Mathilda Spak

There is a marvelous story of a man who once stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world. Dear God, he cried out. Look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in your world. Why don’t you send help?

God responded. I did send help. I sent you.

David Wolpe, author, Teaching Your Children About God

Dear Readers,
I have a wonderful gift for you today -- a story sure to warm your heart, inspire you, and help you see what is possible for human beings when they set their mind to achieving a higher purpose, something we are all called to do in these uncertain times.

You are about to read about Mathilda Spak, a woman I interviewed for my upcoming book. Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World. Mathilda is almost 100 years old, yet her candle burns brighter than that of most 20 year-olds. Not only has she has made a difference in thousands upon thousands of lives, she is still going strong, and if it is up to her she will touch thousands more in the time she has.

Please read her story to your children and have them share it with their friends and teachers. September 11th has given us a new vision of what it is to be a hero and Mathilda Spak needs to be added to the list.

May this story spark in you and your children a desire to get out there and make a difference. If you already are, please encourage people you know to join in. More than ever, the world needs all of us to care about each other and demonstrate our care through our actions. To all of your children I say this: you are never too young or too old to make a difference. When we reach out to help others, we feel more alive, empowered, and happy. At the end of this newsletter you will find ways you can use your life to make this world a better place. Two more words -- start now.

My love to all of you.

In peace,
Naomi Drew


Still Making a Difference at Almost 100 Years Old

Of all the people I have interviewed Mathilda Spak has to be one of the most extraordinary. At close to 100 Mathilda is out there volunteering every day from morning till night. This feisty lady has more energy than people half her age even though she has severe arthritis and suffers from black-outs. Yet Mathilda completely relishes life. She told me, I’m having a ball!.

Every day Mathilda either takes a bus or gets a ride to one of her may pet projects. Pay attention to the following words of wisdom from this rare gem of a woman. People like her don’t come along very often:

I made a promise to my mother that I would work on myasenthia gravis -- the fatal debilitating illness she died from-- till I found out what caused it and how to cure it. I have been asking questions ever since. Twenty -five years ago I started a research project and we are getting closer to finding out the causes. We have been able to cut the death rate from 85% to 5%.

I also work at the Childrens Hospital in Long Beach, California. When babies who have been abused are brought to the clinic, their soiled clothes are thrown out and they end up being released wrapped in a towel. Can you imagine! When I saw that, I lost my temper. I told the people at the hospital, These children need decent clothes! So they put me in charge. I convinced a yarn company to donate skeins of yarn. Now I have members of different churches knitting beautiful blankets and sweaters for the babies. I also get donations of new clothing. Now every single baby goes home properly clothed, with a pretty new blanket.

I also fundraise for the City of Hope. Each year we have a Grand Prix fundraiser for 20 different charitable organizations. Hundreds apply to be included but the rule is that each organization can only participate every three years. A few years ago I made a deal with them to keep myasthenia gravis on their schedule every year. How did I convince them? I told them that I am in my nineties and I can’t afford to wait around three years between cycles.

There are 6 days a week and I try to fit it all in. What I can’t do at the office I take home. You have to stay busy, otherwise you get stagnant and you start to feel sorry for yourself. I also serve as a guide for the Long Beach Symphony, helping out when the children visit from schools.

I got started on this path because my mother taught me from the time I was a child that you must always give back to the community in service. We had a little store in a poor neighborhood and my mother was always helping people. I learned it from her.

There is a lot of goodness in people waiting to come out. One day I was on my way to work. I got off the bus and blacked out. Our office is in a very poor area of the city. Two down-and-out men came over and helped me. They could have stolen my purse and run away, but they didn’t. I looked at them and said, Are you hungry? And they said yes. So I asked them come with me to the diner across the street and eat. But the men said, They won’t let us in. And I said, Oh yes they will!! Watch! We went inside together and I would not take any guff from the waitress about serving them. We had a nice breakfast, then I gave the waitress a $20 bill and told her that she had to feed these men till the money ran out, and I would be back to check. The men ate all week long.

I live every minute of my life as if it is the last, and I enjoy every second. I have two rules: At my funeral, anyone who sheds a tear will be haunted because I have lived a great life. The other rule - continue my charity work.

My advice to this generation is -- Give of yourself. There’s no one who cannot give something. You can take care of a child, volunteer, help your neighbor. No excuses. My mother taught me you never say can’t, and that’s how I live. I have to walk with a cane. Big deal. So I buy myself fancy canes.

Only by giving do you get back. My mother also taught me to only use the dollar for what good you can do with it, and to never turn away a hungry person.

I get people to do all kinds of things. I go to the nursing home and have the older women knit for the babies. If someone says they can’t help out, I ask for one Wednesday. But people started saying, Don’t let Mathilda ask you for one Wednesday or you’ll be doing one Wednesday for the rest of your life! I have one man who has been doing one Wednesday for 40 years.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day and I am going to the hospital. I am delivering a teddy bear to every person there.

* * * * * * * * * *

Want to help and not sure how? Here are some great websites you can go to:

Let us all follow the lead of Mathilda Spak. Who can you reach out to? How can you use your life to make the world a better place? Small deed or large, what most matters is opening your heart and making a difference in any way you can.

Kids Can Make A Difference
Find out how kids in middle school and high school can get involved in ending hunger and poverty. When you go to this website be sure to click on "What Kids Can Do." They address root causes of hunger and poverty and show kids their role in making a difference.
National Coalition for the Homeless
Find out how your family can help people who are homeless. This organization focuses on housing, health care, civil rights and justice. With your help we can begin to eradicate homelessness.

Habitat for Humanity
Thousands of young people worldwide spend school breaks or weekends rehabilitating houses for low income families. Visit this site and see how your family can join in.

Comfort Quilts Find out how your child’s school, scouting troop or organization can create quilts to give to children in need of comforting.
Books for Kids

Lewis, Barbara A. What Do You Stand For? Free Spirit Press, 1997
Real children challenge the reader to build traits such as empathy, citizenship, leadership and respect. Focuses on volunteering. (Grades 3-6)

Lewis, Barbara A. The Kid's Guide to Service Projects. Free Spirit Publishing, 1995.
Helps older children develop service activities and carry them out. (Grades 5-6)

Carlstrom, Nancy White. Light: Stories of A Small Kindness. NY: Little Brown, 1990. Stories about children from different parts of the world who overcome obstacles. (Grades 3-6)

Polacco, Patricia. Chicken Sunday. New York: Philomel, 1992. The story of a group of children of different races who are friends and the wonderful woman who influences their lives. (Grades K-3)


Naomi Drew is the author of three books, all available through
Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids (Kensington Publishers)
Learning the Skills of Peacemaking (Jalmar Press)
The Peaceful Classroom in Action (Jalmar Press)
Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World will be released in September of 2002 (Kensington Publishers)

If your school or organization would like to have Naomi Drew speak or present a workshop, you can reach her at

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Copyright Naomi Drew, August, 2001 All Rights Reserved.
This content may be forwarded in full, with copyright/contact/creation information intact,without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format. If any other use is desired, permission in writing from the author is required.

Love and Peace to All of You.


Copyright © 2002 by Naomi Drew. All rights reserved. Site Map