My Time in Community Service
by Mayim Bialik: do-gooder? or juvenile delinquent?


I have to be honest: I was never into the whole "save the world" thing. I am fully aware that I can't change the situation in Rwanda or even the gargantuan problems on the streets of our cities-at least not directly. I do donate clothes to the Salvation Army, and I give leftovers from restaurants to the homeless. For the past four years, I have run a fairly successful food drive on the lot where I work. I guess I'm just an average teenager trying to make sense out of the problems facing our future.

As the years have passed, the general deterioration of my grandparents' health has affected me. Their medical problems increase year after year, and their state of mental happiness decreases. Watching my own parents go from sprightly 35-year-olds to sprightly 50-year-olds has also caused me to think about the aging process. The prospect of death seems to be getting closer, and it's kept me up nights. This is the only reason I can see for my looking twice at the Hollywood Senior Multipurpose Center.

The building itself happens to be situated on one of the main streets I use to get across town every day. It always caught my attention whenever I passed it: a new hospital-type building, quite sterile looking against the bleak gray apartment complexes surrounding it. On my way to work one day, I left home about 15 minutes early and went 5 minutes out of my way to stop at a supermarket. I bought $20 worth of potted African violets, and off I went to the senior center.

Once, in fifth grade, our temple rabbi gave several students $5. Our task was to go out and perform a mitzvah (a good deed), buy a senior citizen flowers. I did so and recall how nervous I was to meet strangers and be kind to them. That same nervousness came back as I entered the strange building. I found the main office and told about seven diferent staff members what I was there for. They all seemed really surprised that I was giving the center flowers for the seniors to enjoy. I met the sort of unofficial person in charge and she accepted the flowers and took down my name. I think she kind of expected television cameras to burst In to film "Blossom" doing a good deed, but I just stood there taking the prices off the plants. One secretary asked me for an autograph for her kid. (I don't mean to talk about me and signing autographs, but I don't know; when I was there I sort of "forgot", as I tend to do, that I'm on television.) Anyway, I left the center and went to work. I felt good.

I received a thank you In the mail a week ater from the vice-somebody or other. The letter offered that there are many volunteer programs my friends and I would enjoy. And I was thinking, Yeah, right. Who needs a movie and a coffeehouse when you've got a senior center! Nonetheless, I figured I'd call and see what she had in mind. She said they could use any help I could offer and suggested I help serve meals. I told her I also love to clean. She couldn't believe it. "You don't want to clean!" she said. But I did. I do. So I went.

That very Saturday I got up and put on more formal clothing than I am accustomed to wearing: khakis, loafers and a T-shirt, as opposed to jeans, loafers and a T-shirt. I made a conscious effort to look respectable and reliable, and for probably the first time in my 19 years, I had to think of appearance in a different way than I am used to in terms of getting a job. I'm used to auditioning, and looking dependable doesn't really come into play when you're trying to act on a television show. I made sure to look tidy and responsible, and I put on my Star of David. Never hurts.

....nextpage