Dear Reader: Opening Our Hearts to Support All Parents

To the devoted parents navigating challenges with special needs children and to the caregivers working to improve the lives of others — this one's for you

ParentMap, October 2015 Issue

“Science can tell us how life began, but it can never tell us what life is for.” — Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, emeritus chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth

As I write this we are in the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (day of confession and atonement). 

In the Jewish tradition, God is said to be close to us in these 10 days when we ask to be written in the book of life. At this moment, we reflect most deeply on our lives. What have I achieved? What did I do wrong? How can I put it right? What am I here to do?

There is a golden thread magically woven through our October special needs issue. It’s not the words that describe myriad institutions, research advancements or advocacy for children and families with special needs. The magic is the humans: their hearts, vision and action. Forget whether you believe in any superior powers; there are countless examples of people who have God-like behaviors. Devoted parents who navigate challenges beyond your imagination; strangers whose life purpose translates into extraordinary efforts to improve the lives of others. Read about all these people who embody the best spirit of our human condition and you will be uplifted.

Seattle Children’s PlayGarden, once a vision of speech pathologist Liz Bullard, gives access to the glorious outdoors to families far and wide, providing therapeutic and adventurous outdoor play for all. Two years ago, Suzanne Gwynn founded Ladybug House. Each of us can help her realize her vision of a freestanding palliative care home for children in Seattle, offering respite and renewal to families in need.

If you are a parent of children with special needs, you undoubtedly experience the highest levels of stress. Each of us tends to put our children’s needs before our own. We are a community of parents that needs to support each other in finding the ways to have compassion for ourselves first. Honor and accept your humanness. Dr. Kristin Neff, an expert on self-compassion, shares wise words: “Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations and no doubt losses will occur. We all will make mistakes and bump up against our own limitations. But, this is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more we open our hearts to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more we will be able to feel compassion for ourselves and all of our fellow humans in the experience of life.”

Parents, caregivers, siblings, social workers, gardeners and therapists show love that engages with the world, trying — one act at a time, one day at a time, one life at a time — to make life a little less cruel, a little more human and humane.

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