Local | Volunteer Salute

Educator’s creativity breeds generosity

Frustration was the catalyst for Miriam Furst’s creative approach to giving back to others. After the hurricanes this fall, she felt compelled to help. “I was upset to see the suffering,” she says. But at age 77, she was unable to be there physically. When the people in Texas needed help, she sent money. Then the people in Florida needed help, and she sent money. When one of the islands needed help, she sent money.

“I couldn’t just keep sending checks,” she recalls. She vowed to use her creativity to come up with some way to give and focused on her love for teaching. A 30-year veteran Tucson educator of gifted children, she taught them how to think divergently. “Creative thinking and critical thinking are a team. That fascinates me. Anyone with the right information can come up with wonderful ideas if they know certain techniques and mental sets. Such personal internal rewards come from creativity … it provides joy and empowerment.”

Applying the tactics she used with children on herself, she tackled the challenge of how to best help others. She’d written two books on stress reduction and creativity, taught critical and creative thinking to college students and spoken on the topic at conferences. She could do this.

“Frustration can be the best motivator,” she says, smiling. “To do what I can do became the seed.” She conceived a “Creative Thinking Workshop” — an interactive seminar of unique, fun, thinking activities. She’d teach techniques to shake up brain neurons and strengthen creative minds. Throw in a little of her amateur magic for levity and a new concept was born.

Since then, Furst has offered a half-dozen 90-minute workshops to groups of six to 10 people. She offers the professional workshops for free, in her home, charging only a $10 materials fee. The catch? Participants must make a donation to a charity of their choice. “It’s based on trust, I don’t ask for proof,” she says.

Furst notes there’s an additional link between her quest to do good and her seminars: Creative thinking may be the best way to find solutions to the world’s problems.

She plans to expand her potential audience by reaching out to synagogues, churches and educators. She’s playing with thoughts of follow-up sessions, “boutique sessions” for groups of friends, alternate birthday parties where a child might invite friends for a session with cake and ice cream, or private sessions.

Retired, Furst lives a comfortable life. She can shop or go to luncheons or buy things she really doesn’t need. “At some point, there’s the ‘rest of the world.’ I’ve had a plaque for 40 years that I look at all the time. It says: ‘Who you are is God’s gift to you; What you make of it is your gift to God.’”

“I don’t want to come across as a do-gooder. But there must be a balance in the equation. It’s a very Jewish concept.” It’s her way of recovering the sparks.

To join the waiting list for an upcoming workshop, contact Furst at
mimifurst@cox.net or 529-5863.