| Words Unspoken |

Dear Neighbor

Dear Neighbor,

I just want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing your daughter to play in our house.

Although we have a lovely home with kind people, responsible supervision, good snacks, and fun games, some are uncomfortable sending their kids here. Not that anyone has told me so straight-out, but I can tell. Excuses are kinder than the truth, but they still sting.

And you, despite the fact that we have OTD kids, still have made absolutely no changes in our children’s friendship. Despite our dog, which we got to help heal our kids. Despite the way some of my kids dress, and despite the chillul Shabbos that happens — usually not overtly, but we never really know.

Neighbor, our frum kids need your kids more than ever. It’s hard for them to handle their non-frum siblings. They already feel embarrassed and different. They struggle, despite our best efforts to help them by explaining what our rabbanim have explained to us: that these OTD neshamos are special and precious, that they’re struggling, that Hashem has chosen us to lead them on their difficult journey, that we must fill our home with love.

When our frum kids’ friendships change because of their siblings, they know. They’re not stupid. And they feel hurt. Bitter. Resentful of their siblings and resentful of frum culture. But when their friends stand by them and act normally, they feel an oasis of social normalcy. When you show your kids that every Jew is worthy of ahavas Yisrael, you’re raising them right.

Neighbor, I want to reassure you. My OTD kids do not want to badly influence your frum kids or mine. They are sweet and lovely Jewish neshamos. Because we treat them with love and respect, they treat us with love and respect. The last thing they want is for their siblings to turn out like them. I know this because we talk about these things, and they’ve told me. While I’m grateful for this, it cuts so deep to know how badly they feel about themselves.

You don’t need to worry that our frum kids want to be like them. Even a young child can tell that our troubled youth aren’t happy. That they are struggling and in pain. That they have a hard time holding down a job and schedule. That they can’t sleep at night. They don’t envy that.

Our frum happy kids want to be frum and happy. I know this because we talk about these things, and they’ve told me. I hope that your children’s visits to my home spark open dialogue about all of these things. Talking about our community’s issues immunizes our kids far more than denial. Perhaps my family has afforded you that opportunity.

Neighbor, we don’t talk about my non-frum kids too often. I don’t want it to define me, and you and I don’t have that kind of relationship. But I want to tell you what a great job you’re doing as a neighbor and as a mother. You’re giving your child such wonderful values. You’re not parenting out of fear.

Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for trusting your child. Thank you for not making me, my OTD kid, or my frum kid feel like outcasts. Thank you for trusting in Hashem.

Because of you, our journey is a bit easier. Because of you, our faith in frum culture is restored — the OTD journey tends to erode it. Because of you, we have a slice of normalcy on Shabbos.

And for that, may Hashem reward you tenfold. May you never know this pain. May all your children succeed and thrive. I’m davening for you, neighbor. Maybe you’re davening for me, too.

One thing I know: You’re an ally on this journey, and for that I can never repay you. Hashem can. I know He will.

With gratitude,

Your Neighbor

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 641)

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Tagged: Words Unspoken