Jewish Journal

Q-and-A with Big Sunday founder, David Levinson

by Ryan Torok

October 18, 2010 | 11:38 am

A profile on Big Sunday founder David Levinson, author of the new book, “Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins,” which blends memoir with handbook - offering useful advice for any person, family, school, faith group or business interested in giving back – appeared in the latest issue of the Jewish Journal, the week of Oct. 15-21. Read below for an excerpt from the interview.

Jewish Journal: You use the phrase, ‘It’s all good,” a lot in the book.

David Levinson: I wanted to call [the book] that actually. But someone else had already used that title, for something else. But I actually do believe it’s all good. I think people get…sure some things are more valuable than others, like it’s more worthwhile if you’re clearing landmines in Cambodia than if you spend an hour talking to an old lady to keep her company, yes. But it doesn’t mean there’s no value in spending time with the old lady who needs a visitor.  And I think people get moralistic and judgmental, and I have no idea why.

JJ: Were you hesitant about writing about your friend who comes up to you and says, “I just can’t deal with Darfur…I’m overextended already, and it just doesn’t speak to me.”

DL: No, I applauded her for it. It was honest.
I really wanted to write a book that said, ‘You know what, if you can’t do Darfur, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.’ We always see Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. Yeah, sure, they’re amazing. But I’m not going to be Martin Luther King [laughs]. I’m not going to be Mother Teresa. These are extraordinary people, but most people can’t do that.

JJ: Actually, reading the book, I saw you as a mix of Mother Teresa and The Dude.

DL [laughs]: Alright, if that works, I’ll go for it. That’s very funny. I don’t think Mother Teresa was ever quite as cranky as I was.  But maybe she was.

JJ: Well, who do you look at as role models?

DL: Um, that’s a really good question. I’m trying to think of a non-political example. I always thought Paul Wellstone was an incredibly cool guy, the senator from Minnesota.
I try to be non-political when I have my Big Sunday hat on. Although I will say, I really admire Jon Stewart. He’s a smart guy and despite his couching it all with a lot of humor, he really is outraged by some of what he sees in the world and is trying to make a difference in a positive way.

Q: How was the writing process? Was it ever like 3 a.m., you pulling your hair out?

DL [laughs]: When you get to my age, you want to leave as much hair on your head as you can—no, it easy and fun to write. It was just sort of jogging my memory. If I have any regret about the book, there were certain people I wish I could have told their story more because they inspired me. I’ll tell you one thing, can I go back to something else?

JJ: Yeah, absolutely.

DL: I’ll tell you something I found really inspiring. I thought that after the tsunami, when Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. hit the road together, to raise money for people, I thought that was incredibly inspiring. Because it was my impression that these guys really didn’t like each other personally. And that they put that behind them, presented a united front—I thought that was really cool. I really admired them both for doing that. I think that made a big difference for people to see something like that.

JJ: On another topic, do you don’t think that there’s sort of an issue of self-absorption with twenty-to-thirty-year-olds? Do you think they’re getting our there, volunteering?

DL: You know what, people have complained that twenty-to-thirty-year-olds are self absorbed—it drives me crazy. People talk about kids now, how they’re only on Facebook and texting—I have three teenagers, two teenagers now, one of them is twenty—these guys are so much more involved and committed than people in my generation were. I think this generation is incredible, actually.

David Levinson will read from and sign copies of “Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins” at Barnes & Noble at the Grove, Third Street and Fairfax Avenue, Oct. 20, 7 p.m. Free. (323) 525-0270.

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Ryan Torok is a staff writer and community reporter at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, where he has spent the past four years covering everything from social justice...

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