Early in my career, I worked at a residential facility for children with profound physical and intellectual disabilities. It was run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and had become, on occasion, a dumping ground for children whose parents could not or did not want to raise them. Clearly, the labor involved in caring for a child with such tremendous needs was endless. Just the same, the nuns, caretakers and professional staff filled in the gaps providing shelter, sustenance, maintenance and love.
At one point...
...the psychologist consulted with me regarding a young 10-year-old boy who had been abandoned by his parents years ago. While little was known of his background, mention had been made of his Jewish heritage at the time of his enrollment. Knowing that I was Jewish, she asked me about the possibility of his participation in a traditional rite of passage for Jewish teenagers approaching their 13th birthday. While my therapy sessions back in the 1970’s focused primarily on fine motor, self-care and other developmental issues, the need to broaden my typical intervention into the realm of what we now call, Performance Skills and Patterns, was more intuitive albeit unchartered. (By means of perspective, these were the years before the OT Practice Framework articulated the holistic approach to which we ascribe today.) Still, I realized the magnitude this opportunity would bring to the self-esteem and identity of this child. After a dozen or more inquiring phone calls, I finally located a local synagogue that was able to provide on-site training.
...and I eventually changed job settings. While I was enjoying expanding my professional experiences, I never forgot the thrill of persevering and succeeding in making this important connection. While no longer personally connected to the St. Edmond’s Home for Crippled Children… the name intended to inspire both sympathy and donations… the Sisters, the institution and the children remained forefront in my mind.
Just the same…
imagine my surprise receiving a phone call one day from Sister Urban inviting me to Jason’s Bar Mitzvah.
And so, on a brisk Thursday morning, I filed into the sanctuary at a local synagogue. Inside was brimming with an extraordinary sight. Nuns in their habits along with the professional staff from this lovely home.
And of course… Jason.
On the Bima. Repeating the Hebrew prayers before and after the reading of the Torah portion of the day. Most profound though were the Rabbi’s comments regarding the significance of this day. Citing the content of the passage, he explained how this Parshah… this particular Torah reading… dealt with the census Moses was commanded to take as he wandered the desert. The order had been to count ALL the people present—the old and the young, the men and the women, the sick and the healthy, the rich and the poor.
Rabbi explained to Jason that the meaning of this day was to share with him the following message:
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Forty-five years later, as I relate this story to all of you, I still become flush with tears. I don’t think that I’ve ever again impacted someone else’s life or my own more.