This morning at 6:35 a.m., I landed at BWI Airport, having just returned from a 3-day visit to my hometown. It had been two years since I’d been home, and in that time, everyone seemed changed, yet completely the same. I am grayer — they are, too. The children are practically grown up. My father is a little slower, and my baby brother’s wife is expecting. My childhood home looks almost exactly the same — just a little more dilapidated.
When I moved away from home 35 years ago, it was in order to “find my life’s path.” For years I regretted being so far away, especially after I’d married and had children. I wondered if I’d done the right thing by following my heart. My brothers and sisters were so far away, and my children never really got to know their grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles. It felt terrible, yet necessary.
Two years ago, I discovered lay chaplaincy, and threw myself hook, line and sinker into a pastoral care/chaplaincy internship because some small, still voice inside me was telling me, “Go there! Yes, there! Just do it — it’ll be all right.”
It was shortly after that that I last traveled home — and I can honestly say that at that time I didn’t know if I’d survive chaplaincy training. I hadn’t yet learned how to “leave myself out of the room” when I visited with residents, and that had me feeling emotionally overwhelmed. In fact, I was so spent, that I wondered whether I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
During that visit a year and-a-half ago, I asked G-d why I was doing what I was doing when it hurt so much to see people suffering. How could I do it? How? Not receiving any response from any burning bushes or glowing mountaintops, I returned to life with my husband and children, and continued plowing on as a chaplaincy intern — still wondering how could I ever do this for a living? It was so-o-o-o hard.
Then one day, a few months later, like every other day, I woke up, went to visit with my residents, but everything was different. It was like G-d had flipped a switch in my soul. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, beaten down and spent, I felt at home, at peace, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My soul didn’t hurt at all. Instead, it felt invigorated, energized, enlightened, and grateful. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, my personal miracle.
As I prepare to lead services this Yom Kippur, I am only now beginning to realize that little life miracles such as these are what so many people fail to recognize as G-d’s hand. Life is all about learning to recognize that some of the things so many call “luck” are, in actuality, G-d and His/Her minyans of angels.
Life is challenging. We don’t know why we go through what we do, yet each of us, if we open our eyes to that which is, and thank G-d for every hill and valley, for every opportunity to learn from our good work as well as our mistakes, we will definitely come away wiser, better, and stronger than we were when we set out down this winding road.
So it is with a happy and grateful heart that I’d like to turn to everyone whom I’ve ever met, to everyone I’ve ever interacted with, and to my loving family and friends and say “Thank you.” You helped me get to where I am. You led me to this New Year — you are, each and every one of you, a true blessing.
May G-d bless each of you as you walk through this life’s twists and turns. May G-d help you choose the right fork in the road, so that you will be able to say you are at least moving in the right direction.