Akiva Fuld would like you to believe there’s nothing special about what he’s doing, and he’s right: we should all be asking each other “What can I do for you, today?” We should all care enough to ask that question.
What’s different about Akiva Fuld, to my mind, is the follow-through. And by that, I don’t mean answering a call for help with whatsoever assistance he is able to offer, though there’s that, but asking the question in the first place: “What can I do for you, today?”
Most of us would be terrified to ask that question, if it even occurred to us to ask it in the first place. We’d be afraid of getting involved with the messiness of other people’s lives, of being on the hook for more than we’d bargained. For Akiva Fuld, on the other hand, it’s a simple thing, no big deal, no daunting prospect, just a straightforward proposition. Three times a day, he just comes right out and asks the question, “How can I help you, today?”
That’s how it started, anyway, though now it’s morphed into something else: Akiva Fuld created a Facebook page called How can I try to help you today? The page is open to the public, anyone can join. Anyone can ask for Akiva Fuld’s help.
Now, Akiva may or may not be able to help you with your problem. But he’s going to try. And if you think about it, 45-year-old Akiva Fuld, married for 22 years, and a father of 7 (girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl), is only doing what we all know we should be doing for each other: caring enough to offer our help and doing our best to follow through.
This is what it means to be a good person. And we should all be good people. I think we can learn something from Akiva Fuld’s example, so I reached out for an interview. Wanting to be helpful (!), Akiva agreed:
Varda Epstein: Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from, how did you end up in Israel?
Akiva Fuld: I was born and raised in Queens, NY. I made Aliyah at age 23. I guess ending up in Israel mainly had to do with the kind of upbringing I wanted for my future children. I was hoping to save my children from a society that was highly influenced by envy.
Varda Epstein: You started a Facebook group: How can I try to help you today? Can you tell us about this group?
Akiva Fuld: A few months ago I started posting those words to my page, and I was getting all sorts of requests from all over the globe. When I first started noticing the requests begin to dwindle, I started posting 3 times a day. I began to see a rise in requests. When I saw them drop off again, I decided to post to groups that were quite big.
On the first day, many people posted and I helped as many as I could. The second day, again there were many requests, but this time many people started helping others. I guess I felt that I can't help with everything, so I might as well share the opportunity. The truth is that the group is for me to be able to help others. If other people want to help, that's great, if not, I get to keep the opportunities for myself.
Varda Epstein: What made you start the group?
Akiva Fuld: Well there really were three things that made me start the group. First, I haven’t always been a big fan of mankind. I'm very optimistic when it comes to Hashem, and yet quite pessimistic when it comes to mankind. Our ability to cause self-destruction is staggering. I felt that I needed a way to begin to better like mankind. What better way to grow to love someone, than to give to them?
Second, we don't charge usury in Judaism. Aside from the simple reason—Hashem told us not to—if we want a bit of a logical reason, it seems to me that the money doesn't really being to us, we are simply guardians. So if we need the money then we use it, if not then we should make sure someone else can. I feel that it should be the same with time.
And third, certain personal things happened in the past few years that made me want to work on being a better person.
Varda Epstein: What do you hope the group will achieve?
Akiva Fuld: I have no real expectations, and I have no idea where this is going to go. I really would like to see it be more international, and be able to help many other demographics.
Varda Epstein: How much of your time would you say is occupied with this endeavor?
Akiva Fuld: Good thing you are asking me and not my wife or children. I am spending as much time as I believe I need to, in order to make sure as many people as possible get the help they need. My wife and kids believe I am spending WAY too much time on this.
I guess in the end the actual time calculation comes out about the same—pretty much around the clock. I am trying to get it down to 2-3 hours in the morning, 2-3 hours in the afternoon, and 2-3 hours at night. I'm hoping as I bring in more moderators on the page, that I'll be able to get it down to those numbers.
Varda Epstein: What do you do for a living?
Akiva Fuld: I'm building up my company - https://fourpathsto.com/ - which is a new form of communication that I've created, based on recognizing which one of 4 personalities best describes your audience, and then being able to change the delivery of your message, not the message itself, to best fit your audience. This works with audiences from 1 all the way to millions.
Varda Epstein: Do you ever think about the success/fail component to your offer of help?
Akiva Fuld: Personally I don't like to fail, so I do put great effort into it, but it will happen from time to time that I'm not able to help someone. Sometimes it is because I don't have specific knowledge, and sometimes the person isn't open to creative solutions. Also, this is why I added the word 'try' to the name of the group. Does it matter whether or not you are able to help this person or that? Nope. As long as I try and give it my all. I imagine there are people who would like to know: how often is he successful. I don't know the answer to that. I'm not keeping track. I don't see any value in that.
Varda Epstein: What is it about an offer of help that is important?
Akiva Fuld: 1- Listening to what the person is and isn't saying. 2- Understanding what the person is asking for. 3- Being able to recognize, and clearly communicate the difference between the person's 'wants' and 'needs.’ 4- Being able to provide creative solutions when the situation requires it, and simple solutions, when that is what is needed. 5- Being able to recognize what the other person needs to hear and how it needs to be said.
Varda Epstein: What should others take away from your perspective on extending help?
Akiva Fuld: 1- Sometimes people simply need an ear, and sometimes they need more than that. And 2- it is only on one to try.
Varda Epstein: What is your ultimate goal for you and for your people?
Akiva Fuld: For me it is to keep on helping until people don't need to ask anymore. Also it might be nice SOMEDAY (NOT NOW) to have a discretionary fund to help out some of the people who need financial assistance. But I am in no rush. I honestly don't know what the other group members hope to achieve. I'm doing this for me.