Telling Tuesdays – Sharing Our Stories From Jewish Disability Advocacy Month
Words From a Long Time Temple Member
People have their preferred places to sit in the Temple Shalom sanctuary. Our son likes to sit at the back when he comes to synagogue. It allows him to leave before the end of the service, with minimal disruption to others and without calling attention to himself.
There are a number of reasons that people have difficulty being in a crowd. Being in a crowd may be anxiety creating or it may just be exhausting. A person may choose to enjoy the service for just a short time to stay within their comfort level.
A mental illness is not always visible to others but the person may seem inattentive or distracted. When you address people give them a moment to respond and be prepared to repeat your question if necessary. It isn’t an indication of a lack of interest or intelligence. They just may have more head noise than you do.
Our son lives with a mental illness. It has been a long road forward but he has found a way to live a satisfying and rich life. Familiar places with smaller groups of familiar people allow him to operate optimally. His own apartment is where he feels most comfortable and he keeps it beautifully. It is filled with art, his books and his guitars. He dedicates many hours to his study of Torah and has quite a collection of scholarly books. He spends time creating and playing music, filling books with the songs that he writes. Friends and family are very important to him. He is an excellent cook and will generously invite close friends over to share a meal. Like his Baba, he likes to feed people. A family tradition.
In pre covid times he volunteered at The Humane Society and we enjoyed hearing his stories about the dogs that he felt needed extra attention or how pleased he was when an older or larger dog finally was adopted. He is a reliable and caring dog walker.
There are many days when he is out and about in the world and is feeling pretty good. He also has challenging days when he feels anxious and may choose to stay home. We respect his need to operate within his comfort level and at the same time we try to encourage him to continue to move forward. He is reminded of the times when he left a service or a concert early and then later regretted that choice. His tolerance for uncomfortable feelings has increased over time.
We accept and celebrate that people operate at different levels of engagement and energy. Being present with the people that we are with, being understanding and kind is all that we can all do to help all people feel comfortable in our sanctuary.