Mrs. W., when I came to your house for Shabbos, I realized how much I didn’t know
Dear Mrs. W.,
The Shabbos was one to be remembered. Spent with your daughter, a camp friend whom I had known for three years but scarcely saw, the weekend was a rare treat to spend an entire three days schmoozing, laughing, and just enjoying each other’s company.
You and your family were gracious, welcoming, and made me feel like a part of the family, but I doubt you can imagine just how much that Shabbos affected me. To understand it, you need some background — most of which you already know.
The friendship between your daughter and me travels back to one scant half a summer spent on the campgrounds of one very special camp in the Catskills. Our friendship blossomed as we watched our campers together, danced to the beat of nonstop music, and tiredly took our OD shifts. By far the most magical moments were those spent hugging our campers good night, saying Shema, and reveling in the day’s accomplishments and triumphs.
You see, this very special camp was filled with very special campers who filled our days with light, joy, laughter, and fun. Through their individual struggles and unfathomable daily challenges, they taught us what it means to give and give and give some more until your heart is bursting with love, gratitude, and fortitude. I came home from camp not only with a new friend, but also with countless lessons. It is a summer I will always cherish.
I also came home from camp thinking I knew what it meant to care for a child with special needs. I knew what it meant to hold them, care for them, and love them. I knew what it meant to watch them almost every second of every day, help them take their medications, cut up their food, and deal with late-night crises.
Mrs. W., when I came to your house for Shabbos, I realized how much I didn’t know.
My dear friend, your daughter, talks constantly about her sister, an adorable, happy girl with developmental disabilities. I knew about her before I came, I heard all about her deliciousness, but I had yet to meet her. When I did meet her, I wasn’t disappointed. Her happy disposition and tinkling laughter accompanied me through the visit, as did her parents’ and siblings’ devotion and care. But those magical moments don’t take away from the constant challenges.
Unlike camp, this was real life in a real family, with real close-in-age siblings, Shabbos to make, and laundry to fold. Appointments to arrange, homework to supervise, and no one-on-one supervision like we had had at camp. It’s your life. Day in, day out, 24/7/365; there’s no break. As Mommy, you’re always on call. You didn’t choose this, yet I could tell that you love it. Yes, there are challenges; there’s no denying that. But with your calm aura and positivity in every situation, you built your house into a warm, loving home. Every challenge only strengthens your home’s foundation as you continue to build it with a focus on growth and emunah.
Mrs. W., I don’t know the ins and outs of your family life; I don’t know how you react in every situation; I don’t know if you sometimes make decisions you regret. You are human, though, so I assume that you do. All I know is what I saw over Shabbos, and that was enough to inspire me. You opened my eyes to a world I thought I knew but realized I know so very little about. You gave me a glimpse into the world of the W.s, so similar yet so different from my own. We all are living our own lives, each filled with unique challenges, and you taught me how to face my battles with strength, fortitude, and resilience. You taught me to smile when the going gets tough, to open my heart and my home to others in need, to not get caught up in the little details that always seem to go wrong.
Most importantly, Mrs. W., you taught me that when I think I know something, there is often so much more going on behind the scenes, and when I lift the curtains, I will often be surprised and awed.
Mrs. W., you taught me so much.
With much admiration,
Your Daughter’s Friend
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 828)
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