Counting the Omer: Special Needs and A Different Place

Welcome to Holland

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability to try and help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It’s like this…..

When you are going to have a baby it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip-to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The coliseum the Michelangelo David, the gondolas etc. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all exciting. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later the plane lands and the stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?” you say, “what do you mean Holland?” I signed up for Italy I’m supposed to be in Italy! All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there has been a change of flight plan and you’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy different guide books and learn a new language. You will meet a whole bunch of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place, slower pace than Italy, less flashy than Italy. After a while you catch your breath and look around you and you begin to notice that Holland has Tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say “Yes that’s where I was supposed to go, that’s what I had planned.” The pain of that will never go away, because the loss of that dream is a significant loss. But if you spend your whole life mourning the fact that you didn’t go to Italy you may never be free to enjoy the very special and the lovely things about Holland.  –By Emily Perl Kingsley

Thank you to Cindy Gelman Singer for sharing this beautiful poem about one woman’s experience raising a child with special needs.  The more we read this, the more we realize, this is universal, beyond special needs.  We don’t get where we were supposed to go.

In fact, maybe, there is no Italy.  Yet, to be present in our lives means we find purpose in Holland.  In today’s counting of the Omer, may we be present enough to seek such purpose.

Baruch Ata Adonai, Elohenu Melech ha-olam asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al s’firat ha’omer. Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with sacred actions and enjoins us to count the omer.

Hayom echad ushiloshim yom, shehem arbah-ah shavuot u’shloshah yamim la-omer.

Today is 31 days which are 4 weeks and 3 days of the Omer.

–Your RS Clergy