As the old joke goes, there are two types of people in the world.
Those who divide people into two types, and those who do not. But in all seriousness, there are certain things that do divide us.
One of those things is being a person who recognizes a moment of grace and epiphany, or being someone who just walks by, unaware or uninterested in any larger message of an event witnessed or a phrase uttered by someone on the street. There are those who recognize the gift, and those who do not.
I have had many such moments in my life. Where someone has said something, or I have seen something that changes my way of thinking forever. They are moments of moral and philosophical clarity that tend to inform my life.
For example, I remember the exact moment when I realized that I had a child with significant disabilities. It was not at the hospital because I was still in denial. It was not when I started looking for information about what might be wrong with him. It wasn't when the tests were going on, or when the nurses and doctors whispered, or even when the geneticists so eagerly came to his little crib, and I caught them picking up his little fragile, premature limbs like a lab specimen (they were, from that point, banished from his bedside-permanently).
The moment I realized it I had a good scream and cry. It was just the two of us in the house, with G-d indulging me as I wept-heaving tears, finally acknowledging to myself that I had a life with a disabled child ahead of me. It lasted for a few hours.
And then I stopped crying. Just like that. And I never cried again for that reason. That is to say, I never cried again because he has special needs. I've cried because of his pain, what he has been through but not because he is different. I mourned the dream of a normal child that day, on the floor, in my bedroom and never did it again.
Last night, I was on the subway going home.
I got outside, ready to walk to my car and I saw an unusual chair with a small figure in in. I didn't want to stare, I just looked peripherally really, but I saw a small man in a mobility chair-it looked like a high chair with wheels, perhaps motorized.
He was with someone who appeared to be a caregiver, a few steps in front, and from the few seconds that I spent passing by, she seemed to be speaking to Wheel Trans, or to someone else-perhaps a taxi, to see where their vehicle was.
The person in the special chair looked to me to be a grown man.
I've been around a lot of disabled individuals and in a lot of hospitals, but I have never seen such a person, or such a mobility chair.
Although I was walking, I was frozen in that moment.
Life dealt that man, that child of G-d a terrible blow. G-d gave him his life with some kind of mixed up genetic code, a toddler's body for a grown man, no doubt highly dependent on others-and whether with an intact mind and a prison of a body, or a disabled mind in a disabled body-challenges that most of us cannot even fathom-that people would not wish upon their enemies or their enemies children.
Yet, there he was-patiently waiting for his ride, having been on the subway, having come from who knows where, going to who knows where.
I was humbled.
I walked to the car in a daze. Sat in my car and took a deep breath and spoke to myself for a few minutes with G-d listening, as He always does and quietly reminded myself that despite my son's many challenges, there are situations that are considerably worse-at least that is how it seems on the surface.
These are the moments we need to remember when even the most minor pity-party feeling hits us.