Matan had a friend over for Shabbat this week. During Friday night dinner, I asked him how many brothers and sisters he has, how old they are, where they go to school and the like. He rattled off a long list of kids, including a two and a half year old brother and a one and a half year old sister – there are eight of them in total.
Wow, I thought to myself. That mom has her hands full. Yes, I know I have six insanely rambunctious boys, but I’m always impressed and amazed when I hear about moms who are juggling even more than I am.
We spoke for a few minutes about his older siblings and the schools they were attending, and that was it. Nothing else unusual about his family, according to him.
Saturday night, when his mom came to get him, we started talking to her. And some of what she was saying didn’t make sense. She said something about being able to select the sex of one of her babies, and I was completely lost. Finally, when I was confused beyond faking it, I said, “I’m lost. What are you talking about?” Assuming I already knew, she explained that their seventh child was actually a foster child. Oh – and he happens to have Downs.
And so the story unfolded. Last year, the family, with six of their own healthy children, heard that a few Downs babies had recently been abandoned after birth. These babies were at the hospital with nowhere to go, and the foster system was trying to place them. This family convened a meeting and discussed the implications of taking one of these children – and all 8 members of their family voted to do so.
And so, with their own full house, they took in a foster baby with Down Syndrome who they are now hoping to adopt. And shortly after taking him in, they discovered they were pregnant with their own baby.
Really? You almost have to laugh. Just when you are impressed from afar by the mother you know nothing about who juggles raising eight children, she casually mentions this incredible act of chesed (charity) as if it were something anyone would do.
These are the people with whom I live and with whom I am building a life in Israel. Such stories might cause some people to feel inferior, to wonder why others are so incredible and so capable while they try to simply stay afloat in their regular, everyday life.
What these encounters do to me, however, is the exact opposite. They make me feel overwhelmingly blessed to live among giants. We turned to our children as she was talking and said, “Are you listening Matan? Do you hear this Yehuda? Do you understand what this family has done?”
And the best part of the entire experience, for me, was that the son didn’t even mention this at the Shabbat table.
“How many siblings do you have?” I had asked. “I’ve got 7.” And as I asked about each one, it didn’t even dawn on him to think that anything was unusual or special about his family and what they are doing.
If this boy, his mom and his entire family can serve as a role model for me – think of what they just taught Matan without even meaning to do so. My children are being raised among quiet, unassuming giants.
What a bracha (blessing).
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