September 22, 2019

Miracles, Big and Small

The four letters on our non-Israeli dreidels spell out it clearly: A Great Miracle Happened There.

Depending on your interpretation, the miracle is about the unexpected come-from-behind military victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, or the Temple’s skimpy supply of oil lasting for 8 days, or maybe a little of each.

But for families who have a child or teen with special needs, miracles come in many shapes and sizes, from the child with special needs making it through a family dinner without throwing a tantrum or finally being able to brush their own teeth while their same-age peers are getting their driver’s licenses.

One of the unanticipated silver linings of raising a child with significant special needs is that it can liberate the parents from comparing that child to peers, cousins, even siblings. The only true yardstick is that of the child. And every accomplishment and small step in the right direction can be celebrated for what it is, another milestone.

Last week, we attended a wonderful pre-Hanukkah party at Vista Del Mar, co-sponsored by HaMercaz and the Vista Inspire Program. Families filled the dining room, enjoying their first latkes of the season, with art projects for the kids with special needs and their siblings. And then it was time for a great skit called the “Magic Ladle” presented by the participants of the amply-named Nes Gadol afterschool Jewish special education program, which Danny enjoys very much.

I watched all kids acting and moving around the stage, and felt pangs of jealously that Danny wasn’t up on the stage with them. But then the lights went down, a screen came up, and there was Danny in a video, “cooking” latkes with a metal spatula and eating a bite out of almost every latke. With artful editing, the piece was a delight.

In a recent Parade magazine article, the co-author of the book, “Gabby” about Rep. Giffords quotes her husband, retired astronaut Mike Kelly as saying, “You don’t get the life you planned,” he says, “That’s what Gabby and I have learned. When things look bad, the only answer is to find a path through it. What other choice do you have?”

And while you are finding that path, who knows, you might encounter a miracle or two.

Happy Hanukkah!