So volunteering--like your work in soup kitchens--has never been a grind for you?
Not at all.
We have a tradition in our house. I was always envious of bar mitzvahs and people having really defined rites of passage and being able to mark that with some kind of community service. My kids were not particularly ready at thirteen, so we do it at sixteen. My daughter wanted to do something with kids, and she found a shelter and she and her friends and myself and our friends spent a few days and did over a huge room at a shelter.
Yes, and to have something to mark her passage into womanhood that was positive and creative and that she figured out herself.
To celebrate her coming of age?
[A] group I work with that's really fabulous is Habitat for Humanity. This year my son Jack was turning sixteen. We had about 22 people, half were kids and half of them adults, friends of mine who have known him forever.
Everybody showed up at 8:30 in the morning and we put in all the drywall of a four-story brownstone in Harlem, working with people that knew what they were doing more than we did, obviously.
I think it really was special for them, because it was very dramatic-because sometimes you end up just painting or doing little things-in this case, you actually took a skeleton of rooms and tuned them into [ones] with walls. Everyone was filthy and weary by the end of the day, but it was great.
So I would hope they would develop some kind of habit that involves understanding that their life is so full they can afford to give in all kinds of ways to other people. I consider that to be baseline spirituality.
The heart is a muscle like every other muscle. The more you use it...
I think I'm an actor because I have very strong imagination and empathy. I never studied acting, but those two qualities are exactly the qualities that make for an activist.
It's great to see people who find joy in service and don't close their eyes and aren't afraid.
When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you. As my little guy said when he first learned about the origins of man, he said, "So Mom, I guess there really isn't such a thing as a stranger, is there?"
It's a spirituality that's empowering and inclusive and gives you a world that's so large and full of possibilities and so full of rewards. That's joyful.
The people you meet-when I was down after [September] 11th at Ground Zero, I was running into people that I knew from the soup kitchens, from Habitat, that I remembered. They're just everywhere. It's great to see people who find joy in service and don't close their eyes and aren't afraid.