I sat hungrily in services this past weekend during Yom Kippur – along with hundreds of other people who were thinking about nothing but the bagels and whitefish that were waiting on the other side of the next 26 hours. It’s hard to concentrate when you are starving, having coffee withdrawal ( me!) and freezing your tush off on the metal folding chairs that must be stored in the refrigerator when they are not being used. I got bored staring at the strange woman in front of me and tried very hard not to gossip or be catty whilst repenting for my sins of the past year.
There were a few bright spots however… aside from the moment when no one was looking and I snuck a piece of gum into my mouth. The challenge of trying to chew my gum without moving my mouth brought me right back to all that contraband gum chewing when I was a child. The funny thing is that I actually thought that no one could see me because I was doing it so slowly… next week I might try covering my eyes to see if everyone really does disappear just because I can’t see them!
Gum chewing aside, this holiday brought us a moment that few people ever get to experience in life. Our family was the subject of one of the Rabbi’s sermons ( and not because we were being used to illustrate what happens when two jewish kids get married young, move far away from their families and start eating too much bacon!)
Before I discuss the sermon, I somehow have to reconcile what my life looks like on the outside to what it feels like on the inside. While this might sound a little bit like a commercial for an Oreo, it makes perfect sense to me. How it looks is completely different from how it feels. I often feel like a mess. I feel like my clothes are wrong, my hair needs to be cut, my house is too small, too cluttered, too messy. My kids are whiny and tired and hungry. Our food is too fattening, our family is odd, our bank account is overdrawn, our bills are late, our winter clothes are too bulky, our laundry is never done, the refrigerator never has what anyone wants, the grass is too long, the flowers always die and the car is a trash can on wheels. These things make me feel like I haven’t succeeded at anything. They seems like a constant reminder of all that isn’t right.
However; on the outside, what the world can see is that my children are beautiful, healthy, and clean. My house is cute and charming and warm. Our food is delicious and plentiful and sweet. My clothes are stylish and funky and (usually clean.) My hair is short and easy. My husband is kind and loving, funny and silly and tall! My friends are smart and interesting and generous. Our family is whole and good and safe.
Why do these two pictures seems so contradictory? In any event, for once,everything seemed aligned…at about 8 p.m. on Sunday night. Despite all the shortcomings, I am very proud of our accomplishments this past year. We completely a documentary about Max, titled, “Saying Yes.” It was about how Max was fully and completely included in our local nursery school despite having CP and being the only child to ever go there in a wheelchair. It was about all the times that good, open-minded people said “yes,” instead of no. I never made a film before. It was so low budget that I edited most of it myself. I don’t know anything about editing. But, I know a lot about Max and about what makes people feel good. It came out perfectly. The story was so wonderful that people came from all over to see it. Old friends and family from far away, professionals with whom we worked to adopt the kids, therapists and doctors. Friends whom I haven’t seen in 20 years sent contributions toward the cost. Publicity for it was in the newspaper, online and all over town.
As a result of the short film, our synagogue was given a lot of good press . The right people were applauded for once and the kindness of our community was highlighted. The story traveled all over the country; and because of it, children in Arizona, Florida and Colorado will have a chance to be included in ways never thought possible. Just this week, a movie producer for ABC worked with me to include the story in a movie that will air in December.
This was because of us, our family and our desire to make having a child with a disability something more than a tragedy. We wanted to celebrate something. We wanted to show that there are people who do the right thing and because of that, the entire world can be changed. Things don’t have to stay the way they are. They can improve. This is what the Rabbi spoke about. I have never been more proud of my family in my entire life.