July 3, 2012

What is faith?

This week’s blog hop asks the questions:

How has your faith (or lack of) influenced the framework within which you view/experience disability?

How has that “Faith Lens” (or lack of) affected your perspective?

First - What is a blog hop?

A blog hop is a linky list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS. When several blogs put the same linky list code on their blog, the exact same list appears on each blog. Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list. The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides. You will see the list at the bottom of this post.

Second – these are tough tough questions I have pondered for a long time.

I grew up in a Catholic family, the oldest of five, educated in Catholic schools and taught that God was almighty and all forgiving. I am not saying that religion and faith are the same thing, but my early education taught me to accept a God I did not understand just because the Catholic Church said it was the truth. That was called faith.

I married a Jewish man, quite different than either of our families ever imagined and in doing so learned that faith is really not about religion – rather our belief systems and how we work within our respective religious histories to forge our own way. Still, I was quite the lazy seeker and put off reconciling my own faith and spirituality for a long time.

I have three children, the oldest Courtney is 20 and in college, Alex is 19 and will live with us for one more year before she goes to college, and Tommy who is 16 will be a senior in HS. The last 20 years of my life have been spent part pregnant, part working and always raising children, really quite rewarding but tiring. So the search for my faith took stayed on the back burner.

When Alex was born, I questioned my faith – but this was very quickly replaced by the appreciation that a magical event had occurred. I began to embrace our new journey and in doing so developed a deep sense of believing that anything was possible.

This began my real journey into the realization that there really is a power greater than myself, the Catholic nuns and priests, my husband and the numerous rabbis I was privileged to meet.

Time after time I felt the power that came from somewhere guide me as I tried my hardest to raise three wonderful and responsible children, one with a disability. Very simply, I believe Alex is part of the big picture that is molding our family. She brings us the comfort of love, and the knowledge that anything is possible. She has changed us all – and hopefully helping us to become the people we were meant to be.

Three years ago when Courtney was preparing to fill out her college applications she wrote the following essay. The deal was that I was not allowed to read it unless she was admitted to her first choice college as an early decision candidate. And she was….

It is easier to rip a newspaper along the grains. There, the paper is uniform and the tear is clear. I had envisioned my life to be along the grain. I wanted to be the same as everyone else. My school, my clothes, and my music resembled everyone else's in my grade. My family, however, didn't.

In 1st grade I realized my sister was different. This meant that I was different through association. Alex will only ever be as smart as a middle school student- her standardized tests scores can attest to that. I have a sister who won’t be able to live on her own.

School was mine. I entered the decorated classroom and forgot my family at home. I had new friends and they were the social group of the grade. What eight-year-old kid doesn't want to be the center of attention? As far as anyone was concerned, I was just like everyone else.

But I really wasn’t. My sister called for me from across crowded hallways and across the congested playground every day. Eyes would turn to me, wondering how I was going to react. When I heard her, I turned the other way and didn’t respond. My cheeks would burn and I wondered what people were thinking. I wanted to get away from her and I couldn’t. She was always the next bedroom away.

Eventually, I stopped trying to live my life in the control seat. I stopped living my own life in general. People saw me through my sister, so that is what I became- Alex's sister. I sat in the corner while she was out talking to people and singing her off-key songs. I became what I thought people perceived me as. I was quiet and reserved, and I gave center stage to my sister.

I don’t remember exactly when I realized that I didn’t have to be second to her. Alex participates in a lot of activities for children with disabilities, one being therapeutic horseback riding. I spent a lot of time with my sister at her horseback riding sessions, where I watched her confidence grow and her fear become insignificant. She was a real person, and could handle herself well. Who was this girl that caused me so much grief? Did I make her up?

The newspaper was ripped, and there was no going back. I took another look at my life. I saw my sister as a girl who, yes, loves to be the center of attention, but at the same time grew as a real person. She wasn’t afraid to be herself around new people, or around friends. What I ran from in school wasn’t my sister, but it was the idea of a child with Down Syndrome, a child whose different. It was unnecessary energy that I put into hiding from her that I should have spent understanding my sister.

Every weekend, I watch Alex as she jumps out of the car before I turn off the engine. Watching her makes me warm even on the coldest winter days. I love my sister as a person, and through our differences, I’ve come to realize she has helped shape the person I am. My friends aren’t along the grain, they are far from it, and I love them for always being themselves. By keeping my world open to opportunity, I’ve stopping looking at how far I’ve deviated since elementary school and have come to realize how close my life is to the one I’ve always wanted.

And that was the defining moment. If a simple extra chromosome can change a teenage girl, and make her think so deeply about her place in the world, there must be a power greater than any of us, we just have to believe, and hold the faith.

I am grateful, thankful and blessed and these are three adjectives I would never have used on June 19, 1993 and now use almost every day.

Hmmm, did I really answer the blog hop questions or not? Check out these other awesome blogs:


  1. That made me cry! Great post!! I can only hope when my other two children are older, they too will share this amazing love! xoxo

  2. I loved this post. Beautiful.

  3. Gary- that is beautiful! Gosh, we have a lot in common in many ways don't we? Except you definitely have more stamina :) Love this.

  4. Thanks for this perspective. We are at the beginning of this journey also with two girls and a boy. I never had a sister so I already feel behind in parenting 'sisters'.

  5. I love this! It has to be my favorite post I've read in a long time...what an awesome perspective...I often wonder if any of my other kids will feel that way about Brooke, and have decided that yes, perhaps, but hopefully only for a bit...
    What a wonderful family you have..I'm excited to have found you through Meriah....


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