If a bench could talk, then the red one in the park would
probably have lifetime tenure at some prestigious seminary. The
amount of conversations that this bench has been quietely
absorbing over the years surely makes it highly knowledgeable.
Situated strategically under a shady tree, it's non-resistable
to anyone visiting the park. Moms with their children,
babysitters with their charges, seminary students with their
finals all make a beeline for this one.
Today, this bench was all ears to a group of four mothers.
Special mothers. To our bench, it soon became apparent that
though they had to deal with non-mainstream children, they
didn't all relate to the issue in the same manner.
Yehoshua, a sweet boy, was LD and dyslexic. Mindel, his mother,
was convinced that by not acknowledging the problem, she was
doing her son a favor as he would have a greater chance to
overcome his disabilities over the years, and by the time he
needed a shidduch, all would be fine.
"My Yehoshua is definitely the upcoming posek hador."
Mindel was convinced that nothing would stop Yehoshua from
growing up the same way the rest of his siblings were expected
Breindel was perturbed by this. "Don't you think your
expectations are a bit too high, unrealisitic? Wouldn't he feel
like a total failure if he didn't get smicha? Assuming
that he knows what you expect of him?"
"I appreciate what you're saying, Breindel," Nechama put in her
own two cents worth in a thoughtful tone. "I can't assume that
my Baila will be able to draw as well as her older sister, even
though I think the world of her and love her as dearly."
Baila was a sweet, intelligent girl born with a defect that
made her hands very stiff. While children her age spent their
mornings at their desks in school, she was busy with
occupational therapists. She had special tutors who came in the
afternoon to keep her abreast of the learning level of the Bais
"Baila will be successful in many areas of life, I hope, but
drawing will probably not be one of her strong points," Nechama
"I know about your Baila, but Yehoshua is different. I think
he's just lazier than most children," Mindel answered
"What do you mean `lazy'?" Sara's voice was shrill. She was
seething at Mindel's arrogance. Years ago, that's what they
used to call children with problems. But nowadays, it was
recognized that no child chooses not to succeed, rather, it is
a neurological problem, minor or major, that interferes with
the learning process.
"How could you call Yehoshua lazy?" Tears glistened in Sara's
eyes. She loved children of all ages and sizes, and truly
believed in each of them. Each child is like a growing
plant. No one expects geraniums to grow as fast and as tall as
sun flowers. But all she said was, "Each child strives to
forge ahead and succeed, even if it is not so obvious to
everyone." Sara had her personal experience with the individual
growth process. Tamar, her fourth child, was a Downs Syndrome
child, and it had taken a lot of patience for Tamar to reach
her present stage of development.
"Listen, I'm his mother. Trust me. I know what I'm saying."
"Hello, everybody! How are y'all?" Leah, wheeling her Yitzy in
his oversized stroller, breezed by the bench and greeted her
friends, then turned her attention back to her son.
"O.K., Yitzy, I'll park you over there so that you can be near
all the children, like you wanted."
Beaming her ever-present smile, she headed for the sand box.
Baila came along and asked if she could hand out cookies to
everyone. Nechama turned to her friends. "Baila helped me make
these yesterday. She worked very hard."
"Mmmmm! Wonderful, Baila! They're delicious!" Mindel said
"Let me peek into that bag, Baila. All those different shapes!
And so many cookies! They're beautiful!" Sara knew that Nechama
baked with Baila to give her practice using her hands.
After exchanging cookie recipes, handing out drinks, sandwiches
and carrot sticks, mothers and children were ready to call it a
Children and toys gravitated to their respective Mommies and
families headed for home. As they turned into their pathway,
Yehoshua asked Mindel, "Mommy, is Yitzy a lazy boy?" Mindel
looked at him disbelievingly. "Why would you think so?"
"Because he doesn't walk. He sits in the stroller all the time.
Is he lazy?"
Mindel nearly bit her tongue in shock! "Oh, no! Yitzy can't
walk because his legs are not strong enough to hold him."
"You mean that he wants to walk like everyone else, but he
can't?" asked Yehoshua. "But don't you always say that everyone
can do anything they want, if they really try hard enough?"
Mindel felt a rude awakening and found it difficult to
formulate her answer. Haltingly, she explained, "No, honey.
Yitzy will never be able to walk around without help of some
kind, no matter how badly he really wants to."
"So Yitzy is not lazy? It's just too hard for him?"
"That's right." It was a pensive Mindel who put the children
to sleep that night. Her conscience was heavy with guilt. She
hadn't empathized with Yehoshua and his difficulties. She could
imagine a disaster scene as Yitzy's mother where, instead of
wheeling him patiently in his stroller, she kept scolding him
for being lazy! Tears streaming down her face, she ran into the
bedroom and asked Hashem for forgiveness. She resolved to be
more compassionate with handicapped people, and children, and
be more gentle and understanding with Yehoshua.
Why not call Sara now and discuss this revelation with her? It
was Sara who had taken exception of her attitude in the
Sara was pleasantly surprised at the call and suggested, "Could
you come over, Mindel? I'd like to show you something."
The heavenly smell of freshly baked bread pervaded her entire
being as she stepped into Sara's home. She entered the kitchen
to find the entire table coverd with challos in all
shapes and sizes. "Wow! They're gorgeous! That big one over
there is really outstanding!"
"Look at the small ones, too, Mindel. These are my successful
ones. They don't make the same impression but that's because
they're made from smaller chunks of dough. But they did rise
double their original size. And you know, it's the same with
children. The ones that rise to the top of their class are
gifted, they have a head start and begin with much more. And
they don't even work as hard for their achievements. Our
learning disabled or handicapped children, however, are our
bigger successes. They're the ones who had to overcome major
obstacles to be what they are. And in the long run, they will
have had much more exercise in perfecting their middos
in the process of growing up than the normal child, whose path
is so much smoother."
Mindel took a deep breath and nodded wisely.