What I Reaped| September 29, 2020
On Succos, we gather our crops, reflect on our harvest. In life, we gather our experiences, appreciate what we’ve gained
by Ahava Ehrenpreis
I love words. I always have.
Like so many things that make us who and what we are, it’s genetic, a combination of nature and nurture. My father wrote several books, my mother wrote plays and cantatas, my brother has written several important seforim.
Words, but not meaningless words for words’ sake. “Hashem gives you only so many words, don’t waste them” was one of my father’s mantras.
From the earliest age, I’d write things in my mind, recreating a moment or an impression as if I were getting it down on paper. I liked the way the words sounded when I strung them together. I loved reading words (well-written words), and I liked to think of writing as painting a picture.
But I didn’t do much with that particular passion. I traveled to Japan with four kids, wrote a book about it, put it in a drawer.
One day, my friend suggested I use words to share about my life with a child with special needs. I described what it was like to send a child with special needs across the ocean to a program in Israel. I described preparing Saadya to leave for Israel, watching the plane take off, the challenges over the years. I was never good at fiction, so I wrote about life as I had experienced it, with all the contradictory emotions I’d felt.
The piece was printed in a popular magazine. Seeing your words in print is euphoric. I read them as if someone else had written them and marveled that others might actually want to read what I’d wrote.
Then the responses began coming back to me. “Thank you for validating so many of the mixed emotions I’ve always felt.” “Sent him across the ocean? Your words inspired me to consider giving my special child more freedom.”
Then Hashem tested me with the loss of my husband. I kept wishing I could tell other women what I’d experienced and perhaps mitigate some of their pain. My friend, an editor, said “Write a book!” I ignored her for a very long time; it seemed far too major a task. I could handle words in short spurts, but a book?
“Write a book!” she kept urging. “Women need to hear your words, the mountains you had to climb, the fears and the triumphs.”
And one day I did… well, it took far more time than one day. But eventually, I saw my words bound together in a white cover with pink roses. My gift to other women. As with so many gifts, I received far more than I gave.
The more I wrote, the more feedback I received. I realized it wasn’t just that I loved words; Hashem had given me a way to reach out and touch people I didn’t know. I couldn’t find parking in New York without being intimidated, but I could write words that touched people around the world. My readers heard their own voices, their own sadness and joy in my words.
The gift of words I’d been granted was a gift I could give to others.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 712)
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